12/28/08

GUEST BLOGGER: The Neptune Delusion

Should Atheists Believe in Neptune?

Inaugurating Atheism is Dead’s guest blogger program is RD Miksa from the new and promising blog Miksa’s Musings.

Following is the guest essay:

To read/Or not to read


Evidence. Evidence. Evidence. As I stood in the shower, this one word kept repeating itself in my mind, for I was thinking most intensely about the constant demand made by atheists to be provided some form of empirical evidence for God’s existence. And then, quite suddenly, the most peculiar question intruded upon my “deep” reflections: should atheists believe in Neptune? Although the shower’s running water may have you thinking that I am referring to the Roman god of the sea—and perhaps that was indeed the catalyst that made me think of Neptune in the first place—this is not the case, for I am speaking of Neptune in terms of the eighth, and furthest, planet in our solar system.

Now, I am also being a little disingenuous with my question, because I am not actually asking if atheists should believe in Neptune, but rather, should blind atheists believe in Neptune? Let me explain. As previously mentioned, when debating the existence of God many atheists continuously demand that theists provide them with some empirical evidence for their belief. Just show me a little empirical evidence, they say; just give me some objective sensory experience and I will believe in a God, they add. In these cases, therefore, it is the sensory evidence that atheists find lacking for God’s existence and it is this demand which is directly related to the question at hand. Should a blind atheist, demanding the same sort of empirical evidence as is so often asked for in the case of God, believe that the planet Neptune exists? The blind atheist will certainly never touch, hear, smell or taste Neptune and, being blind, this empirically minded atheist will obviously never see it either. So, with the blind atheist making a defiant stand against the Neptune delusion—at least until some hard empirical evidence is presented to him—how would a seeing atheist convince the blind atheist of Neptune’s existence?

Would the seeing atheist explain that various scientists have made calculations and predictions to show that Neptune exists—as they did when Neptune was first discovered in 1846 by mathematical prediction rather than direct observation? The blind atheist would simply reply that this is an appeal to authority for which no direct empirical evidence exists. Would the seeing atheist argue that millions of people believe in Neptune and have seen it? The blind atheist would simply retort that these are subjective experiences and are therefore invalid until hard empirical evidence is personally received. Would the seeing atheist simply state that if the blind atheist could see, then he would see that Neptune exists and could believe? Obviously, the blind atheist, seeking hard sensory evidence, would simply scoff at the blatant use of “if” and “could” and “would” and “believe”. In fact, should a blind, empirically-minded atheist even believe in the existence of the moon, the sun or any of the other planets?
Invoking Occam’s Razor, the blind atheist could state that, since he has seen no hard empirical evidence for these heavenly bodies, there is no need to unnecessarily complicate matters; the earth is a self-contained unit and it is all that is needed, required and is the only thing that empirically exists. The heat that the blind atheist feels on his face, which other people claim comes from the “sun”, could easily be postulated by the blind atheist to come from some earthly heat source rather than some floating sky-ball heat-lamp. And here we are only speaking of the sun, let alone such things as other galaxies! “Other galaxies”, the blind atheist would gasp, “what are you, supremely delusional!” Nor would he be off the mark for claiming this; indeed, there would be absolutely no need for the blind atheist to complicate his existence by adding invisible and non-empirically verifiable heavenly bodies that are as likely to him as fairies, unicorns or a flying-spaghetti monster.

To make matters even more bizarre, if the empirically minded seeing atheist has never seen Neptune through a telescope, why should he believe in its existence? At best, should the atheist not remain agnostic about the Neptune delusion until he does empirically verify its existence? At the same time, such an evidence based atheist should also remain agnostic about many other things until he personally experiences them with his own senses. Such events as the earth revolving around the sun should be an agnostic belief until the empirical atheist flies out into space and personally sees it happening—especially since common sensory and empirical experience from earth makes it seem that the sun actually revolves around the earth. Or, to give a specific example relating to Neptune, this time as a sea god, an atheist in a land-locked country should be wholly agnostic on the existence of seas and oceans until he gets some personal empirical evidence concerning them. But if he never does get said evidence, then he should never believe, regardless of how many people bring him cups of salted water from the so-called “sea”. Thus, there must be a vast number of commonly accepted scientific discoveries and occurrences that the evidence demanding, empirically minded atheist must honestly remain agnostic about because he has never personally verified them through empirical means.

With all this in mind, we can finalize by asking all atheists two major questions. First, should a blind atheist, asking for the same type of empirical evidence as is demanded for God’s existence, believe in the existence of the planet Neptune or any other “heavenly” bodies? And if such empirical evidence cannot be produced for the blind atheist, does this mean that only our subjective sensory realities are true for those demanding sensory evidence of God?

For the seeing atheist, the existence of Neptune is empirically true because he can state that he has personally seen it through a telescope. But for the blind atheist, the existence of Neptune is empirically false, because he will never (at least in this lifetime) see it or touch it or taste it or smell it or hear it. Therefore, is the existence of Neptune both true and false depending on an individual’s current, and thus subjective, sensory input? And if this is so—and here we arrive at the second question—then should not the evidence demanding atheist accept that an individual’s subjective sensory experience of God, such a seeing a vision or feeling God’s presence, is a perfectly valid reason, from an purely empirical sense, to justify belief?

Yet perhaps even more important then these questions, are the implications that the Neptune delusion raises for atheism itself, for it inherently forces various atheists into different camps, all based on their subjective sensory input. Thus, the camp of blind atheists would claim that seeing atheists are delusional for both believing in God and for believing in such things as heavenly bodies, which to them are no more likely to exist than angels. Indeed, to a blind atheist, the seeing atheist Richard Dawkins is as delusion for believing in Neptune as the God believer is for believing in God. And these blind atheists could righteously chuckle at seeing atheists for their irrational belief in “orbiting space meat-balls”—to coin a term that relates to the so-called “flying spaghetti monster”.
At the same time, seeing atheists could state that blind atheists for delusional for not believing in these heavenly bodies. But the insanity is not finished yet, for deaf atheists could call both seeing and blind atheists delusional for believing in anything as irrational as “sound”. Certainly, it is more parsimonious for the deaf atheist to postulate that all non-deaf people simply use some type of hyper-fast lip-reading skills to communicate rather than believe in the existence of invisible sound waves. Invisible sound waves are just as likely as invisible fairies, these deaf atheists would say. Furthermore, atheists who are color blind could heartily laugh at anyone that could be so deluded as to believe in the existence of “redness” or “greenness”. And we have not even touched on atheists who do not possess any sense of smell or touch or taste.

Clearly, the Neptune delusion implies that there exist a great number of deluded atheists roaming the streets. In fact, the Neptune delusion creates a literal smorgasbord of atheistic delusions, with each different camp of empirically minded atheists positively affirming that the other is delusional in its beliefs; indeed, watching all these different atheist camps try to agree on the existence of anything would be quite interesting. And yet, each group of sensory specific atheists would be fully correct, empirically speaking, in claiming that the other groups of atheists are delusional. But does this, therefore, mean that all atheists are, in some serious ways, delusional? If a blind atheist can claim that Neptune does not exist and a seeing atheist can claim that it does and they are both empirically correct from their own points of view, then each can correctly claim that the other is delusional. Furthermore, does this mean that atheism itself is delusional, as you could never trust an atheist to not be in some way empirically deluded, thus substantially weakening atheism claim of being wholly rational and evidence based? Now, while I certainly do not wish to venture forth and answer this question, I can happily profess that after exploring the Neptune delusion, I am quite glad that I am not an empirical-evidence-only atheist!

So, the next time an atheist asks for personal empirical evidence for the existence of God, ask him if he has ever personally verified the existence of Neptune by empirical means or did he just take its existence on another person’s authority? If he has simply done the latter, then ask him if he should really believe in such a personally unverified—and therefore, from an individual perspective, non-empirical—delusion? Oh, and if the atheist just happens to be blind, then you are really out of luck!

110 comments:

  1. The "empirical evidence" demand of athiests is born of either ignorance or disingenuousness.

    They can't use empirical testing to prove that only empirical testing qualifies as evidence (circular reference).

    They make a category mistake. You don't use a scale to weigh the color blue, because colors don't have weight.

    Christians can point to all sorts of evidence: Cosmological, teleological, logical, moral, historical and more. When atheists insist that we have no evidence or that they have the same amount of evidence for their Flying Spaghetti Monster, they really tip their hands.

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  2. So, the next time an atheist asks for personal empirical evidence for the existence of God, ask him if he has ever personally verified the existence of Neptune by empirical means or did he just take its existence on another person’s authority? If he has simply done the latter, then ask him if he should really believe in such a personally unverified—and therefore, from an individual perspective, non-empirical—delusion? Oh, and if the atheist just happens to be blind, then you are really out of luck!
    There is one problem with the "neptune" problem being compared to "god"...there are people who have actually seen Neptune, as opposed to the number of people today who have seen god.

    Another problem is that "god" is a sentient being who can and according to the bible, has sent actual messengers (angels) to meet people. Most atheists I know of would accept that, as I would. But, even though they exist in your mythology and they can show themselves, oddly enough they don't. Neptune can't just come down and show itself like an angel can, can it?


    Would the seeing atheist explain that various scientists have made calculations and predictions to show that Neptune exists—as they did when Neptune was first discovered in 1846 by mathematical prediction rather than direct observation? The blind atheist would simply reply that this is an appeal to authority for which no direct empirical evidence exists.
    Another problem: any atheist I know would not have that reaction. I think you're just burning a strawman here. It's only an "appeal to authority" when there is not actual evidence presented, and we're just asked to take it on the person's reputation or their say-so only.


    In fact, should a blind, empirically-minded atheist even believe in the existence of the moon, the sun or any of the other planets?
    Invoking Occam’s Razor, the blind atheist could state that, since he has seen no hard empirical evidence for these heavenly bodies, there is no need to unnecessarily complicate matters; the earth is a self-contained unit and it is all that is needed, required and is the only thing that empirically exists.

    The blind person could still feel the heat on a summer's day and get sunburn from the sun. He'd be able to realize pretty quick that the earth is not "self-contained".

    Occams' Razor only works when there is no reason to complicate matters. Here, there is.

    The heat that the blind atheist feels on his face, which other people claim comes from the “sun”, could easily be postulated by the blind atheist to come from some earthly heat source rather than some floating sky-ball heat-lamp.
    That would have to be some heat source; one that follows him around all the time when he's outside, no matter where he goes. And the heat comes from upwards as opposed to from the ground, which is what one would expect from an "earthly heat source". The fact that at night, any heat that is felt from the ground (like concrete sidewalk) cools off would show that it's not an "earthly heat" source.

    It would have to be the earth itself in order for the "atheist" in your little scenerio to assume that the heat was an "earthly heat source".

    It seems to me that Occam's Razor would actually point toward there being a sun in this case.


    This reasoning of yours is nothing but a justification that would willfully disregard and hold in contempt anyone who actually asks for evidence for your invisible sky god.

    What's to stop the worshippers of other invisible unverfiable "gods" from using your own analogy against the atheists that they deal with in their homelands? Even more important, how would you people settle among yourselves which invisible being actually exists, if you look down on the need for empirical evidence like you seem to?




    for 4simpsons:
    They can't use empirical testing to prove that only empirical testing qualifies as evidence (circular reference).
    As far as I know, empirical evidence isn't the only kind of evidence out there, but it is odd that in the case of your god, it seems to be totally inapplicable. Not what one would expect from a being that is actually supposed to exist and who at least had his servants show themselves many times in the "bible".

    Now, one can talk about the "historical" evidence for your god. Not as strong as one would hope. The View from Nebo by Amy Dockser Markus, The Bible Unearthed by Finklestein, and Out of the Desert by Steibing.

    Then there's sites like this one where they deal with stuff like "messianic prophecy", etc. Just go to the top of the page, click on Knowing your Orchard and go to the Essays on Christianity section.

    "Moral" evidence of your god? Uh, right. Morality is something that had to be worked out, and is being worked out over time to help people get along in society and for society to survive. Your god didn't really contribute to morality in any positive way in your OT.

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  3. Good Day Reynold,

    Thank you for your reply, but here are a few points (Your comments are in quotations):

    "There is one problem with the "neptune" problem being compared to "god"...there are people who have actually seen Neptune, as opposed to the number of people today who have seen god."

    Many mystics and other religious believers—who have devoted their lives to prayer, meditation and contemplation of the divine—have claimed to have experienced God through sensory input. By the same token, many (but certainly not all) do not seek money, fame or fortune for this discovery, but simply profess their experience and let people take from it what they will. Essentially, they are honest and have little to gain personally for their claims. Therefore, why should I reject their claim but not the ones from people who have claimed to have seen Neptune, as I have seen neither? In fact, there are many more people who have had a personal experience with the divine then people who have seen Neptune with their own eyes--does this make God's existence more probable than Neptune's?

    "Another problem is that "god" is a sentient being who can and according to the bible, has sent actual messengers (angels) to meet people. Most atheists I know of would accept that, as I would. But, even though they exist in your mythology and they can show themselves, oddly enough they don't. Neptune can't just come down and show itself like an angel can, can it?"

    Thank you for proving my point. Many people have claimed to have seen angels with little to gain for their claim, so again, why should I not believe them but should believe someone that claims to have seen Neptune? Just because an angel has not come to you personally does not render their testimony invalid.

    "The blind person could still feel the heat on a summer's day and get sunburn from the sun. He'd be able to realize pretty quick that the earth is not "self-contained". Occams' Razor only works when there is no reason to complicate matters. Here, there is. That would have to be some heat source; one that follows him around all the time when he's outside, no matter where he goes. And the heat comes from upwards as opposed to from the ground, which is what one would expect from an "earthly heat source". The fact that at night, any heat that is felt from the ground (like concrete sidewalk) cools off would show that it's not an "earthly heat" source. It would have to be the earth itself in order for the "atheist" in your little scenerio to assume that the heat was an "earthly heat source". It seems to me that Occam's Razor would actually point toward there being a sun in this case."

    This I an interesting point, but you are leading yourself where you wish to go, not where Occam’s Razor would point. Because even if the blind atheist must admit that heat is felt from above, Occam’s Razor would state that the simplest solution is heat from an Earth “atmosphere” of some type, rather than an invisible floating ball heat-lamp that is millions of miles away and millions of tons in weight. However, here is a further question for you, what about a blind atheist who cannot feel cold or heat?

    In addition, your writing is also a bit of a deflection, because while a case could be made for the existence of the sun, what case could be made for Neptune, which causes no personal effect on the blind atheist? Or the moon? Or Mars? Or other galaxies? No empirical case could be made for the existence of these for a blind atheist. Thus, the blind atheist should not believe in the existence of Neptune or any other these other things.

    "This reasoning of yours is nothing but a justification that would willfully disregard and hold in contempt anyone who actually asks for evidence for your invisible sky god."

    Not at all, because my point is: if the atheist is willing to accept the empirical evidence—that he has personally not verified—based on the subjective sensory experience of other people (ie – scientists), then such an atheist should have no problem accepting the testimony of mystics and others that claim to have experienced God through their own subjective sensory experience.

    "What's to stop the worshippers of other invisible unverfiable "gods" from using your own analogy against the atheists that they deal with in their homelands? Even more important, how would you people settle among yourselves which invisible being actually exists, if you look down on the need for empirical evidence like you seem to?"

    This is simply a deflection, for we are not speaking about the characteristics of God, but whether subjective sensory experience is a fully universal and valid method of discovering God.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  4. Reynold (and Any other Reader),

    Consider this hypothetical situation:

    You, an atheist, possess two friends, both of equal intelligence, trustworthiness and integrity. One friend is a scientist who has spent a decade doing research and study. The other friend is a mystic who has spent a decade meditating, praying, etc. Now, after a decade, the scientist friend comes over and tells you that he has discovered quarks, a particles that no one has ever seen or touched, but he knows them to exist. At the same time, the mystic comes over and tells you that after ten years he has felt and seen God. Why would you accept the testimony of one, but not the other? If empirical evidence is based on subjective sensory experience, then why must one be discounted by the atheist but not the other?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  5. RD Miksa "Now, after a decade, the scientist friend comes over and tells you that he has discovered quarks, a particles that no one has ever seen or touched, but he knows them to exist. At the same time, the mystic comes over and tells you that after ten years he has felt and seen God. Why would you accept the testimony of one, but not the other?"
    Because I could (at least theoretically), follow the first guy's chain from start to finish and come up with the same answer (or similar...or, in the case of quantum thingies, wild deviations, with the wilds and the deviations weeded out as experiments continue). Doing the same with the second would result in different answers (nothing, a general sense of wellbeing, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, animist, Norse, Greek, Roman, Shinto and others, with various possible shades within each), with more deviation as more people join and expand on the experiments. The only consistency of the divine appears to be it's inconsistency. That's not to say that there is not really something there, but it's a piss poor justification for jihad or Prop 8.

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  6. Good Day Modus,

    Thank you for your comment. Some points (your comments are in quotations):

    “Because I could (at least theoretically), follow the first guy's chain from start to finish and come up with the same answer…”

    True, but ‘theoretically’ is the key word, as I can assure you that I do not possess the knowledge or intelligence for high-level physics or mathematics and could thus not replicate the experiment. Stating this as a ‘theoretical’ is therefore an assumption that may not be entirely justified. So again, if I cannot personally recreate an experiment, why should I believe?

    “…(or similar...or, in the case of quantum thingies, wild deviations, with the wilds and the deviations weeded out as experiments continue).”

    Wow, you are certainly allowing for a great deal of ‘wilds’ and ‘deviations’ for quantum thingies and science, but if I were to claim that mystics come up with very similar core experiences but have wild deviations in the specific that could be weeded out with further mystical experience, I do not believe that you would give such a statement much weight. But why not, when it is simply using your example for mystical experience instead of science?

    “Doing the same with the second would result in different answers (nothing, a general sense of wellbeing, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, animist, Norse, Greek, Roman, Shinto and others, with various possible shades within each), with more deviation as more people join and expand on the experiments. The only consistency of the divine appears to be it's inconsistency.”

    This is simply an assertion and unsubstantiated assumption that is not backed by empirical evidence. In fact to counter this, I am currently reading a book ‘Letters to a Doubting Thomas’ that deals with this issue and actually provides research that shows that mystical experiences actually share many core elements, regardless of the faith from which the mystics come.

    “That's not to say that there is not really something there…”

    Thank you for this admission. In all honesty, this is only fact that I wish to bring forth.

    “…but it's a piss poor justification for jihad or Prop 8.”

    Certainly, but this is just a deflection. For example, the Scholastic Theologians and Philosophers actually used ‘Natural Law’ ethics to justify certain moral decisions. In the end, this statement has nothing to do with whether or not subjective sensory experience justifies a belief in God.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  7. "True, but ‘theoretically’ is the key word, as I can assure you that I do not possess the knowledge or intelligence for high-level physics or mathematics and could thus not replicate the experiment."
    Hence the "theoretically". With the boom in knowledge, experts are generally called that because of their expertise. It wasn't too hard to be a Renaissance man back in the Renaissance. It is now, unfortunately. The path choices now are wide but not deep or deep but not wide.
    The reason you should be inclined to believe it is that others have repeated the same experiments, gone over the same data and come to the same conclusions. It's not a guarantee of them being correct, but it helps. They (and by "they" I mean those ivory tower eggheads) are pretty good at weeding out the failures. If you look at it from an egocentric point of view, they have every reason to try to make theories fail (there's a Nobel for "First thing to be found" or "New theory that overturned other theory", but there isn't one for "Guy agrees that guy before him was right").

    "Wow, you are certainly allowing for a great deal of ‘wilds’ and ‘deviations’ for quantum thingies..."
    That's because it's mostly theoretical at this point, as far as I'm aware. Hypotheses with little data will naturally have wide variance, but as more learned (from CERN, hopefully), that knowledge pares away the bits that don't fit (and will probably lead to theories that fit the facts better).

    "...but if I were to claim that mystics come up with very similar core experiences but have wild deviations in the specific that could be weeded out with further mystical experience..."
    How's that workin' out for you?

    "...I do not believe that you would give such a statement much weight."
    When you get Vishnu and Allah to decide who is the boss of whom, I'll be more receptive.

    "I am currently reading a book ‘Letters to a Doubting Thomas’ that deals with this issue and actually provides research that shows that mystical experiences actually share many core elements, regardless of the faith from which the mystics come."
    I'm sure that there are core elements that are commonly in common. If the mystical really is out there, it's all running through the same kind of brain (and if it isn't out there, than it's just coming from the same kind of brain...which is still pretty cool, if you think about it, like an optical illusion, but bigger).
    The problem comes when these mystical experiences come from gods that sometimes claim exclusivity, and they want you to do things, and sometimes those things really made sense at the time for their intended audience but not so much now (21st century civilization is not 600BC or 600AD MidEast).

    "Thank you for this admission. In all honesty, this is only fact that I wish to bring forth."
    No. Thank you for not being Mariano or Stan or MedicineMan (seriously, though. I love you all).

    "Certainly, but this is just a deflection."
    Sure, but oh my god, what a deflection! Did you know that people sometimes feel something that could be characterized as God? Did you know that the One True God that's popular around here is against "the gays" getting married? Did you know that if you put those two things together, you can help God help gays not be married?
    A vague and warm sense of the greater interconnectedness of all things + cultural baggage + book = good or evil actions, depending on what the three variables are at the time.

    "In the end, this statement has nothing to do with whether or not subjective sensory experience justifies a belief in God."
    While the Argument from Personal Experience isn't all that powerful when it's coming from other people, it is different when it's coming from oneself. Odd that a "personal experience" would be like that, eh?

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  8. Many mystics and other religious believers—who have devoted their lives to prayer, meditation and contemplation of the divine—have claimed to have experienced God through sensory input. By the same token, many (but certainly not all) do not seek money, fame or fortune for this discovery, but simply profess their experience and let people take from it what they will. Essentially, they are honest and have little to gain personally for their claims. Therefore, why should I reject their claim but not the ones from people who have claimed to have seen Neptune, as I have seen neither? In fact, there are many more people who have had a personal experience with the divine then people who have seen Neptune with their own eyes--does this make God's existence more probable than Neptune's?
    You do realize that unless all of those mystics have had experiences that lead them to the xian god then your using them as evidence of your god is useless, right? And as I explain at the end of this reply: No, that is not a "deflection".

    Exposure to magnetic fields also gives people "mystic experiences". Perhaps all that mystic experiences are evidence of is faulty neuron firings?

    Besides, there is another problem with this reasoning of yours: blind people lack a particular sense that seeing people possess. Unless you can point to a specific facilty that atheists lack that affects their ability to "see" god, as xian theists can, (and only xian theists can, since after all, your god is the only god there is, right?) your analogy falls apart.

    As I've shown, "experiencing" god really doesn't mean anything. That's kind of why we ask for empirical evidence.

    Another problem with your analogy is this: In real life, atheists and theists have access to the same sensory information. People who are blind and sighted people do not.

    If you wish to assert otherwise, you will need evidence.

    The correct analogy is not a blind person failing to see a planet that everyone else sees, but a sighted person claiming to see a planet that other equally-sighted people don't.


    Thank you for proving my point. Many people have claimed to have seen angels with little to gain for their claim, so again, why should I not believe them but should believe someone that claims to have seen Neptune? Just because an angel has not come to you personally does not render their testimony invalid.
    Unless you can show that all of those angel claims are from your god as opposed to say the Islamic god or the god of Mormon, then your reasoning falls apart again. After all, isn't that how Islam and Mormonism got started was by "angel sightings"?

    As I said earlier, your analogy is just a way of dismissing the skeptics claim of demanding actual evidence for your claim. Once one dismisses the need for evidence then one winds up with the potential for all sorts of crazy ideas to spring up.

    I asked once before how believers in different invisible deities would be able to prove the existence of their deities to each other once they've dismissed the need for actual evidence.


    This I an interesting point, but you are leading yourself where you wish to go, not where Occam’s Razor would point. Because even if the blind atheist must admit that heat is felt from above, Occam’s Razor would state that the simplest solution is heat from an Earth “atmosphere” of some type, rather than an invisible floating ball heat-lamp that is millions of miles away and millions of tons in weight.
    An earth "atmosphere"?? If the earth's "atsmosphere" is supposed to be generating the heat, then you'd have to explain why the temperature goes down for half of the time even with the atmosphere -- you know, at night!?

    If you start trying to come up with any weird stuff about how the atmosphere generates heat only during part of the day, then it's going to be your explanation that's going to get awkard.

    I'm not the one cutting himself on Occam's Razor here. I'm not the one who's "leading myself where I wish to go". You're just trying (again) to justify the theists's dismissal of the need for actual evidence for your god.


    However, here is a further question for you, what about a blind atheist who cannot feel cold or heat?
    Go back to what I said earlier: In real life atheists and theists have access to the same set of senses. The correct analogy is not a blind person failing to see a planet that everyone else sees, but a sighted person claiming to see a planet that other equally-sensed people don't.


    In addition, your writing is also a bit of a deflection, because while a case could be made for the existence of the sun, what case could be made for Neptune, which causes no personal effect on the blind atheist? Or the moon? Or Mars? Or other galaxies? No empirical case could be made for the existence of these for a blind atheist. Thus, the blind atheist should not believe in the existence of Neptune or any other these other things.
    Tnen by your reasoning then, Islamists or members of any other religion on the planet who claim to have had "personal effect" by the deity of their religion may actually be justified in their beliefs.

    Again, once you dismiss the need for actual evidence, you're stuck with the potential for all sorts of crazy ideas and religious beliefs that can spring up.


    "This reasoning of yours is nothing but a justification that would willfully disregard and hold in contempt anyone who actually asks for evidence for your invisible sky god."
    Not at all, because my point is: if the atheist is willing to accept the empirical evidence—that he has personally not verified—based on the subjective sensory experience of other people (ie – scientists), then such an atheist should have no problem accepting the testimony of mystics and others that claim to have experienced God through their own subjective sensory experience.
    And we've seen that your reasoning, or more precisely your excuse for avoiding evidence can lead to all sorts of religions springing up, as Islamists, Hindus, etc can use the same reasoning you do.

    Good luck disproving them without evidence.

    My pointing out that my question: "What's to stop the worshippers of other invisible unverfiable "gods" from using your own analogy against the atheists that they deal with in their homelands?
    Is not a delection...

    This is simply a deflection, for we are not speaking about the characteristics of God, but whether subjective sensory experience is a fully universal and valid method of discovering God.
    No deflection at all: If those other people are experiencing "false gods", then they are not experienceing your god at all, are they? They must be experiencing something else, must they?

    Religious "experiences" can be triggered by many things: among them magnetic fields, to drugs (which at least some mystics use) or even just stress.


    Your entire POST is a deflection, or dodge, of the need for evidence.

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  9. Hello Again Modus,

    Thank you once again for your comments, but I also have a few questions reference them:

    “The reason you should be inclined to believe it is that others have repeated the same experiments, gone over the same data and come to the same conclusions.”

    I absolutely agree, but by this reasoning, if one mystic—a Carmelite Nun, for example—came to me and told me that she had seen and felt God, I could go and speak to various other Carmelite Nuns, who used the same procedures as the first, and determine if they have also had God “experiences”. In addition, I could also speak to other mystics from other traditions and if they also told me that they felt and saw God after a number of years of study and training, then using your reasoning, I could confidently assert that God (with no specific characteristics mentioned) exists.

    “If you look at it from an egocentric point of view, they have every reason to try to make theories fail (there's a Nobel for "First thing to be found" or "New theory that overturned other theory", but there isn't one for "Guy agrees that guy before him was right").”

    While I do agree with this, the other aspect is that human nature also inclines a person to support his chosen worldview, even when facts point to the contrary. Thus, for example, you have scientists proposing an unobserved and untested multiverse theory in order to naturally answer the issue of the universe’s “fine-tuning.” And “strangely”, such a theory has been widely embraced by the most prominent atheists, irrespective of its weakness. What this points to is the fact that scientists are as liable as everyone else to make interpretations of data that suit their worldviews and since, most often, I must rely on their interpretation of data rather than hard data itself, I am cautiously sceptical of scientists.

    “While the Argument from Personal Experience isn't all that powerful when it's coming from other people, it is different when it's coming from oneself. Odd that a "personal experience" would be like that, eh?”

    But here is the rub: all experience is by necessity personal! When a scientist tells you that such and such an experiment leads to result A, you are not experiencing this, but are relying on the scientist’s trustworthy description of what he has experienced. You did not experience the experiment, but you trust the scientist’s authority because you know him. Thus the question remains, if you had two people (one scientist and one mystic) that you knew to be trustworthy and one told you that he had discovered unseen quarks and the other told you that he had felt God, why would you be inclined to trust the authority of the one but not the other?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  10. "If empirical evidence is based on subjective sensory experience, then why must one be discounted by the atheist but not the other?"

    Confabulation and Heterophenomenology. As MO said, the characteristics of quarks can be established independently by any other team of researchers that so wishes, because it requires only the reading of mindless instruments, and not the reading of minds (although that too is quickly approaching reality).

    The plea that you want to make in your discussion could have been put much more succinctly as:

    If it is rational for a blind person to believe in the existence of the planet Neptune without evidence, then it should follow that it is rational for everybody to believe in God without evidence.

    The problem with this line of reasoning is that, if you accept it, then it is ostensibly also rational to believe in Neptune the Roman god, indeed the whole Olympian pantheon, and every other god and demon and spirit and fairy etc. If you invoke the reality of one supernatural "explanation," then any admissible supernatural explanation can be invoked. How do you choose a supernatural belief among many?

    Of course you commit a classification error by comparing the planet Neptune, which if it exists is made of ordinary matter, with something that allegedly is immaterial (a god). There are many reasons for why people have great confidence in the existence of material objects and rather less for immaterial ones.

    An underlying problem of the whole text is also that it fails to specify exactly what sort of belief is being discussed. "Belief" is a polysemous word, with at least three different meanings: correctness, trust, commitment. Belief in God can be of the trust and commitment kind, while belief in the planet Neptune tends be of the first kind to those who bother to check, and of the second kind to those who don't check but see no particular reason to disbelieve the research of others.

    Rather than arguing that impaired people can hold the same beliefs as unimpaired people, wouldn't it be more likely that their beliefs about some concepts really are different from those of "normal" people? Why should we think that people with impaired senses or cognitive disabilities would be able to hold exactly the same kind of rational belief that unimpaired people can? Impaired people who can not establish the correctness of a belief directly will have to rely on information conveyed by different channels, and the belief quite naturally shifts towards the "trust" kind, which they may not at all doubt, but still can not verify directly for themselves. And this holds not just for the planet Neptune, but probably for a multitude of mundane everyday facts whose correctness can not be directly established but have to be trusted.

    The trust in the existence of the planet Neptune by those who can not check for themselves in no way implies the correctness of the existence of God. Additionally, the correctness of the existence of the planet Neptune can and has been established, while the correctness of the existence of God has not. It is only by using the same word "belief" without distinction in all cases that you think you have created a valid argument, but it is fallacious.

    This whole "Neptune delusion" is an attempt to rationalize your religious belief by attributing correctness to it by association, but this is a doomed project from the start since religion is inherently irrational (this is really not up for debate). Religions are not explanatory frameworks; explaining is not the main functions of religions. You don't need evidence to trust in and commit to a religious doctrine.

    Finally I wonder, if you truly believed in the veracity of Judeo-Christian writings, then you would believe that there certainly has been very tangible and material evidence for God in the past (all those miracles). So why are you so adamant that scientists should stop asking for evidence? It seems to me that you would only make such an argument if you were already convinced that there will not be any forthcoming empirical evidence for God. But then I must wonder, what convinced you of this?

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  11. It seems that adonais has summed up some of what I was trying to say far more succintly.

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  12. Hello Again Reynold,

    Thank you for taking the time to write a long and interesting post. Here are some remarks (again, your comments are in quotations):


    ”You do realize that unless all of those mystics have had experiences that lead them to the xian god then your using them as evidence of your god is useless, right?”

    What is very interesting is that you have assumed I am a Christian and am speaking of the Christian concept of God as I never mentioned anything to that effect in my post or my comments. And we I was in the Army, we had a funny saying about assuming something (due to the fact that it could lead to our death): “When you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME. Therefore, please do not assume I am speaking of the Christian concept of God, as I am simply speaking of the God of the Philosophers; I am speaking of Aristotle’s God. In addition, no Christian claims to understand God exactly and all human conceptions of it are far short of the mark, so even Christian mystical experience might be only part of experiencing God.


    ”Besides, there is another problem with this reasoning of yours: blind people lack a particular sense that seeing people possess.”

    This is exactly my point. Empirical evidence depends absolutely on the senses. Therefore, by your standards, blind people should not believe in Neptune, the Sun, the Moon, other galaxies, etc. for they can never by empirically verified by that blind person.


    ”As I've shown, "experiencing" god really doesn't mean anything. That's kind of why we ask for empirical evidence.”

    This statement is inherently contradictory as receiving any empirical evidence means experiencing it. When a scientist conducts an experiment, he experiences the results with his senses. Thus, to personally gain empirical evidence, one must experience it. And therefore, from an empirical sense, experiencing God means a great deal.


    ”Another problem with your analogy is this: In real life, atheists and theists have access to the same sensory information. People who are blind and sighted people do not.”

    Again, this is exactly my point. This means that if things are only true if we have empirical evidence for them, then the existence of Neptune is both true--for the seeing atheist--and false--for the blind atheist--and each can claim that the other is delusional and cannot empirically convince the other of his position. Just ask your self this: have you personally and empirically verified everything that you believe?

    “The correct analogy is not a blind person failing to see a planet that everyone else sees, but a sighted person claiming to see a planet that other equally-sighted people don't.”

    The problem is that I am actually not making an analogy but am asking a serious question: how could a blind atheist be empirically convinced of the existence of Neptune or any other heavenly body? And is such a blind atheist empirically justified in claiming that people who believe in Neptune are delusional? You have yet to answer this question through empirical methods.


    “Unless you can show that all of those angel claims are from your god as opposed to say the Islamic god or the god of Mormon, then your reasoning falls apart again. After all, isn't that how Islam and Mormonism got started was by "angel sightings"?”

    Again, thank you for proving my point. For if I am not affiliated with any religion and based on common angel sightings, what I could claim is the following: while all religions are at least partially wrong in their claims, but because all believers of different religions have experienced angel sightings, then strong evidence (based on various sensory testimony of numbers of people) exists for the statement ‘Angels, in general but not particular to any religion, exist.’


    “As I said earlier, your analogy is just a way of dismissing the skeptics claim of demanding actual evidence for your claim.“

    Please stop saying that I am dismissing the need for evidence, for you are missing the main point. Empirical evidence is based on sensory experience and thus, if someone has a sensory experience of God, then this counts as empirical evidence for God’s existence. Thus, rather then dismissing evidence, I am simply asking, why are atheists so willing to accept the sensory evidence of scientists, but not of religious mystics?


    ””An earth "atmosphere"?? If the earth's "atsmosphere" is supposed to be generating the heat, then you'd have to explain why the temperature goes down for half of the time even with the atmosphere -- you know, at night!? If you start trying to come up with any weird stuff about how the atmosphere generates heat only during part of the day, then it's going to be your explanation that's going to get awkard.”

    Reynold, please do not get side-tracked (and I apologize if I caused it). My point is that for a blind atheist using Occam’s Razor and demanding empirical evidence for the Sun (for example), it would always be simpler to postulate heat from an earthly, or close to earth, source than it would be to postulate the existence of a massive nuclear energy ball floating in space millions upon millions of miles of miles away. That is the only point I am trying to make.


    “Tnen by your reasoning then, Islamists or members of any other religion on the planet who claim to have had "personal effect" by the deity of their religion may actually be justified in their beliefs…. And we've seen that your reasoning, or more precisely your excuse for avoiding evidence can lead to all sorts of religions springing up, as Islamists, Hindus, etc can use the same reasoning you do.”

    Absolutely. And this is the point, if we rely absolutely on empirical evidence and only empirical evidence, then the only thing that we should believe in is personal and subjective sensory experience, which means that you cannot call someone who experienced God is delusional nor can you claim that the blind atheist is wrong in not believing in the existence of Neptune. You have no ground to discount these if all we rely on is empirical evidence.


    ”Again, once you dismiss the need for actual evidence, you're stuck with the potential for all sorts of crazy ideas and religious beliefs that can spring up.”

    Actually, once all you accept is empirical evidence as truth, then you wind up with absurdity, as shown in my post.


    ”My pointing out that my question: "What's to stop the worshippers of other invisible unverfiable "gods" from using your own analogy against the atheists that they deal with in their homelands?
    Is not a delection...”

    Nothing at all can stop them and again, this is my point, if empirical evidence is the only way to truth, then truth means subjective sensory experience. But by the same token, you, as an atheist, have no empirical argument against me if I claim that I have experienced God.


    “No deflection at all: If those other people are experiencing "false gods", then they are not experiencing your god at all, are they? They must be experiencing something else, must they?”

    Not at all. Perhaps God decides to reveal Himself in different ways to different people or people perceive Him at a certain level or depth. Let me explain. When I look at a piece of bark, I see a brown, hard piece of wood, but if I looked at the same piece of bark through an electron microscope, I would see electrons, protons, etc. In both cases I am looking at the same piece of bark but am seeing and experiencing two completely different things, but has the bark changed?


    Take care and thank you again for the interesting comment,

    RD Miksa


    PS – Just a final point to note, there is no “Xian” religion. The term is Christian and using a non-existent term can be confusing to those not familiar with it in addition to showing a lack of critical thinking, proper debate technique and laziness. Just imagine if I shortened the term “atheists” to “ass”; not only would it cause confusion, but would be quite rude without need.

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  13. "Of course you commit a classification error by comparing the planet Neptune, which if it exists is made of ordinary matter, with something that allegedly is immaterial (a god). There are many reasons for why people have great confidence in the existence of material objects and rather less for immaterial ones."

    What proof can you offer me that Neptune is in fact made of ordinary matter?

    "The problem with this line of reasoning is that, if you accept it, then it is ostensibly also rational to believe in Neptune the Roman god, indeed the whole Olympian pantheon, and every other god and demon and spirit and fairy etc. If you invoke the reality of one supernatural "explanation," then any admissible supernatural explanation can be invoked. How do you choose a supernatural belief among many?"

    That's a great question but is not the point of this blog as far a I can tell. It's true that if you open the door to the existence of God it then leads to such questions of theology(which god and what does he want from me? etc..}. Just because there are further questions about the attributes of God does not negate the evidence for the existence of 'a' god that can be obtained by non empirical means.

    "Finally I wonder, if you truly believed in the veracity of Judeo-Christian writings, then you would believe that there certainly has been very tangible and material evidence for God in the past (all those miracles). So why are you so adamant that scientists should stop asking for evidence?"

    By all means keep seeking the truth. No thinking believer will discourage you from your pursuit. But in all honesty, you wouldn't believe in a miracle if you saw one now would you?

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  14. Hello Adonais,

    Thank you for your comments. Some points (again, your originals comments are in quotations):


    “The plea that you want to make in your discussion could have been put much more succinctly as: If it is rational for a blind person to believe in the existence of the planet Neptune without evidence, then it should follow that it is rational for everybody to believe in God without evidence.”

    Strangely, this was not the point that I wished to bring forth at all. My point is that if empirical evidence, based on subjective sensory input, is all that can count as evidence for the existence of anything (rather than metaphysical arguments, etc.) then by necessity all people are delusional for all people believe a vast amount of things that they have not personally or empirically verified—such as the existence of Neptune. Therefore, the atheist is as delusional as the religious believer and, due to “empirical evidence only for belief in things”, the atheist is no more rational than the believer.


    “The problem with this line of reasoning is that, if you accept it, then it is ostensibly also rational to believe in Neptune the Roman god, indeed the whole Olympian pantheon, and every other god and demon and spirit and fairy etc. If you invoke the reality of one supernatural "explanation," then any admissible supernatural explanation can be invoked. How do you choose a supernatural belief among many?”

    I make no claim to be able to distinguish. That is my point: if truth is only based on empirical evidence (as many atheists claim) which, in turn, is only derived from subjective sensory experience, then the world collapses into absurdity. This is the logical finality of ‘empirical evidence only’.


    “There are many reasons for why people have great confidence in the existence of material objects and rather less for immaterial ones.”

    Interesting, but false; for example (and I understand that this is an extreme case, but it proves the point), imagine a blind, deaf paraplegic. For him, the existence of the immaterial: numbers, dreams, etc. is likely much more real than the material. Thus again, the confidence one has in the material is directly related to the senses that one has available and is again purely subjective.


    “Rather than arguing that impaired people can hold the same beliefs as unimpaired people, wouldn't it be more likely that their beliefs about some concepts really are different from those of "normal" people? Why should we think that people with impaired senses or cognitive disabilities would be able to hold exactly the same kind of rational belief that unimpaired people can?”

    But this supports my point. Thus, based on empirical evidence and because they experience things differently (as you state), sensory impaired people can claim that you are delusional in many of the beliefs that you hold and they are right in doing so because truth only depends on subjective sensory experience. Using this argument, a person who has “experienced” God, can claim that you are delusional for not believing in Him and while you can disagree with this person, you cannot empirically show that he is wrong.


    “Impaired people who can not establish the correctness of a belief directly will have to rely on information conveyed by different channels, and the belief quite naturally shifts towards the "trust" kind, which they may not at all doubt, but still can not verify directly for themselves. And this holds not just for the planet Neptune, but probably for a multitude of mundane everyday facts whose correctness can not be directly established but have to be trusted.”

    So why is it rational to ‘trust’ certain people (ie - scientists) for certain things that one cannot verify for oneself, but not to trust other people (mystics) for other things that one cannot personally verify?


    ”The trust in the existence of the planet Neptune by those who can not check for themselves in no way implies the correctness of the existence of God.”

    Of course it does not. This point was never made. The point is that empirical evidence means that subjective sensory experience is the only truth and the atheist possess no greater hold on truth or rationality than the believer.


    “Additionally, the correctness of the existence of the planet Neptune can and has been established, while the correctness of the existence of God has not.”

    Incorrect. Empirically speaking, the existence of Neptune has been established for certain people (such as those that can see) but not for others (such as blind people or those that have never seen Neptune through a telescope). By the same token, empirically speaking, the existence of God has been verified by those who have experienced Him through some type of mystical experience but not for those who have not.


    “It is only by using the same word "belief" without distinction in all cases that you think you have created a valid argument, but it is fallacious.”

    I never claimed to make the argument that you attribute to me. My argument is that demanding empirical evidence through subjective sensory experience as the only means to truth leads to total absurdity.


    ”This whole "Neptune delusion" is an attempt to rationalize your religious belief by attributing correctness to it by association, but this is a doomed project from the start since religion is inherently irrational (this is really not up for debate).”

    Actually, if I accept the premise that many atheists do, that empirical evidence based on subjective sensory experience is the only valid means of truth, then if I have had a personal experience of God, then I am imminently rational in believing in God’s existence. At the same time, empirically speaking, the blind atheist is imminently rational in not believing in Neptune, the Sun, the Moon, etc. Thus, empirically speaking, religion is as rational as atheism.


    “So why are you so adamant that scientists should stop asking for evidence? It seems to me that you would only make such an argument if you were already convinced that there will not be any forthcoming empirical evidence for God. But then I must wonder, what convinced you of this?”

    Well, to be honest, one of the reasons that I am skeptical of scientists is because they are human and being such, they will, for example, postulate the existence of an unobserved and unverified multiverse (not very scientific, I might add) in order to answer the fine-tuning problem--that seems to support theism--and thus, these "scientists" support their own pre-conceived naturalistic worldview while deceitfully claiming they are behaving as rational scientists unmoved by inherent bias. Thus, scientists are as willing to change, twist and interpret evidence to support their views as any other person is. Remember, if you are going to be a skeptic, you best be a skeptic about everything, not just what you wish to be skeptical about.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  15. Good Evening Jeff,

    Thank you for your points. I look forward to more of your comments.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  16. PS – Just a final point to note, there is no “Xian” religion. The term is Christian and using a non-existent term
    Actually, it's just outdated, not "non-existent".

    can be confusing to those not familiar with it in addition to showing a lack of critical thinking, proper debate technique and laziness. Just imagine if I shortened the term “atheists” to “ass”; not only would it cause confusion, but would be quite rude without need.
    One thing though: "Xian" was originally devised by those of your faith. Using it demonstrates a knowledge of the history of your faith, not "lack of critical thinking, proper debate technique and laziness".

    Whereas "ass" as an abbreviation for atheists comes from nowhere but the mind of theists like yourself.

    More later.

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  17. "Therefore, please do not assume I am speaking of the Christian concept of God, as I am simply speaking of the God of the Philosophers; I am speaking of Aristotle’s God."

    This is called deism and, amazingly enough, DOESN'T include mystical experiences- a deist God does NOT intervene.

    "In addition, no Christian claims to understand God exactly and all human conceptions of it are far short of the mark, so even Christian mystical experience might be only part of experiencing God."

    They claim to understand God enough to declare what he does and does not want. As do all other religions.

    "This is exactly my point. Empirical evidence depends absolutely on the senses. Therefore, by your standards, blind people should not believe in Neptune, the Sun, the Moon, other galaxies, etc. for they can never by empirically verified by that blind person. "

    A blind person first needs to find out the existance of sight. They can do this by learning that others can tell things at a distance and work from there.

    In the military, they gave out night vision gear, right? Imagine that you have never used it, but a buddy is and he tells you that a person is approaching.

    "This statement is inherently contradictory as receiving any empirical evidence means experiencing it. "

    Nope. When I recieve light, other people can to. However, a personal experience is exclusive to a single person.

    "This means that if things are only true if we have empirical evidence for them, then the existence of Neptune is both true--for the seeing atheist--and false--for the blind atheist--and each can claim that the other is delusional and cannot empirically convince the other of his position."

    Actually we can. We get a telescope and have it print out the results in braille. Problem solved. That wasn't hard. A blind person can't see in regular light, but normal people can't see in X rays.

    "Just ask your self this: have you personally and empirically verified everything that you believe? "

    ... who told you about the reactor?

    "The problem is that I am actually not making an analogy but am asking a serious question: how could a blind atheist be empirically convinced of the existence of Neptune or any other heavenly body? And is such a blind atheist empirically justified in claiming that people who believe in Neptune are delusional? You have yet to answer this question through empirical methods."

    This device recieves light waves. They are higher on the spectrum than infrared. When light hits an object it can be reflected... (gets mirror and laser). Point the laser up and you don't feel anything, but point it at the mirror and it bounces back at you. Most objects aren't as reflective, but all have a percentage bounce off.

    Here is the telescope. We have here the image of Neptune (shows braille copy). Additionally, we have the prediction based on the orbit of Saturn the existance of Neptune. You see the math shows that the orbit is slightly off as if it is being moved by another body and...

    "Again, thank you for proving my point. For if I am not affiliated with any religion and based on common angel sightings, what I could claim is the following: while all religions are at least partially wrong in their claims, but because all believers of different religions have experienced angel sightings, then strong evidence (based on various sensory testimony of numbers of people) exists for the statement ‘Angels, in general but not particular to any religion, exist.’ "

    Elvis LIVES! LONG LIVE THE KING!

    Throughtout history people have described coming into contact with incredible things- we went from Olypian Gods, to Saints and currently we have aliens. Unless you are claiming that throught history we have had alien creatures that were very interested in people and sex I think the most resonable conclusion is hallucinations.

    "Empirical evidence is based on sensory experience and thus, if someone has a sensory experience of God, then this counts as empirical evidence for God’s existence. Thus, rather then dismissing evidence, I am simply asking, why are atheists so willing to accept the sensory evidence of scientists, but not of religious mystics?"

    One is repeatable and one isn't.

    "Reynold, please do not get side-tracked (and I apologize if I caused it). My point is that for a blind atheist using Occam’s Razor and demanding empirical evidence for the Sun (for example), it would always be simpler to postulate heat from an earthly, or close to earth, source than it would be to postulate the existence of a massive nuclear energy ball floating in space millions upon millions of miles of miles away. That is the only point I am trying to make. "

    Not really. If they were exposed to the evidence, they would see that the time of heat and cold varies accross the planet. In fact, it varies so that when one half has longer days, another has shorter ones.

    If they had basic knowledge of geometry, the idea of a sphere getting energy from an outside source immediately presents itself.

    With enough evidence, all things are discoverable.

    "Absolutely. And this is the point, if we rely absolutely on empirical evidence and only empirical evidence"

    Great. What sense is a mystic using? It isn't sight, sound, smell, touch or taste.

    "Nothing at all can stop them and again, this is my point, if empirical evidence is the only way to truth, then truth means subjective sensory experience."

    We are smart enough to know when our senses our haw wire- sometimes at least.

    "In both cases I am looking at the same piece of bark but am seeing and experiencing two completely different things, but has the bark changed? "

    Yes. You see, by the very act of observing it you have changed it. I'm not talking about hisenburg- electron microscropes require cutting it into thin slices.

    "PS – Just a final point to note, there is no “Xian” religion. The term is Christian and using a non-existent term can be confusing to those not familiar with it in addition to showing a lack of critical thinking, proper debate technique and laziness. Just imagine if I shortened the term “atheists” to “ass”; not only would it cause confusion, but would be quite rude without need."

    You can call me at. X-ian isn't a prejoritive- it X-mas is Christmas after all.

    "What proof can you offer me that Neptune is in fact made of ordinary matter? "

    It has mass and interacts with light.

    "That's a great question but is not the point of this blog as far a I can tell."

    Deism doesn't have an interventionist God.

    "But in all honesty, you wouldn't believe in a miracle if you saw one now would you?"

    After my interest in optical illusions and magic, I don't trust my own eyes. Course, if you shoot fire out of your hands I probably would be impressed.

    "Strangely, this was not the point that I wished to bring forth at all. My point is that if empirical evidence, based on subjective sensory input, is all that can count as evidence for the existence of anything (rather than metaphysical arguments, etc.) then by necessity all people are delusional for all people believe a vast amount of things that they have not personally or empirically verified—such as the existence of Neptune. Therefore, the atheist is as delusional as the religious believer and, due to “empirical evidence only for belief in things”, the atheist is no more rational than the believer. "

    I don't understand engineering- i do know that they can build bridges that don't collapse. I don't know how to do surgery, but I do see that our LE is better than those who can't get it. I believe in many of the things I can't verify because it gets RESULTS. For example, I believe in atomic theory because nuclear weapons have been used to put out fires.

    "I make no claim to be able to distinguish. That is my point: if truth is only based on empirical evidence (as many atheists claim) which, in turn, is only derived from subjective sensory experience, then the world collapses into absurdity. This is the logical finality of ‘empirical evidence only’. "

    What happens when evidence contradicts itself? Obviously your senses are flawed and the evidence wasn't recieved correctly.

    "
    Interesting, but false; for example (and I understand that this is an extreme case, but it proves the point), imagine a blind, deaf paraplegic. For him, the existence of the immaterial: numbers, dreams, etc. is likely much more real than the material. Thus again, the confidence one has in the material is directly related to the senses that one has available and is again purely subjective. "

    Helen Keller shows that isn't true.

    "But this supports my point. Thus, based on empirical evidence and because they experience things differently (as you state), sensory impaired people can claim that you are delusional in many of the beliefs that you hold and they are right in doing so because truth only depends on subjective sensory experience. Using this argument, a person who has “experienced” God, can claim that you are delusional for not believing in Him and while you can disagree with this person, you cannot empirically show that he is wrong. "

    Why not? People see things that aren't there often. Ever seen after images in your eyes?

    "So why is it rational to ‘trust’ certain people (ie - scientists) for certain things that one cannot verify for oneself, but not to trust other people (mystics) for other things that one cannot personally verify? "

    Because they can make things happen.

    "
    Incorrect. Empirically speaking, the existence of Neptune has been established for certain people (such as those that can see) but not for others (such as blind people or those that have never seen Neptune through a telescope). By the same token, empirically speaking, the existence of God has been verified by those who have experienced Him through some type of mystical experience but not for those who have not."

    Well, I don't expect kids to believe in things they have never heard of before.

    As for God, the experiences you are talking about are internal experiences brought on by extreme conditions. You know, the type that mess with your senses. But I guess that God likes to hide there, right?

    "Actually, if I accept the premise that many atheists do, that empirical evidence based on subjective sensory experience is the only valid means of truth, then if I have had a personal experience of God, then I am imminently rational in believing in God’s existence. At the same time, empirically speaking, the blind atheist is imminently rational in not believing in Neptune, the Sun, the Moon, etc. Thus, empirically speaking, religion is as rational as atheism."

    Actually you are claiming all beliefs are equally rational, a position that is both ridiculous and false.

    "Well, to be honest, one of the reasons that I am skeptical of scientists is because they are human and being such, they will, for example, postulate the existence of an unobserved and unverified multiverse (not very scientific, I might add) in order to answer the fine-tuning problem--that seems to support theism--and thus, these "scientists" support their own pre-conceived naturalistic worldview while deceitfully claiming they are behaving as rational scientists unmoved by inherent bias. Thus, scientists are as willing to change, twist and interpret evidence to support their views as any other person is. Remember, if you are going to be a skeptic, you best be a skeptic about everything, not just what you wish to be skeptical about."

    Of course the theory is biased towards naturalism- we have no evidence for no natural forces and science is made so that it EXCLUDES supernatural explanations.

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  18. Good Evening Reynold,

    Reference the 'Xian' comment.

    Indeed you are quite correct reference this issue and the error is mine. Clearly, in this case, the lack of critical thinking, lack of proper debate technique and just plain laziness is all on my shoulders, so I hope that you can accept my full apology for writing what I did. I will try to ensure that such an incident does not happen again.

    Waiting for more of your comments.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  19. "What proof can you offer me that Neptune is in fact made of ordinary matter? "

    That's an irrelevant question. Formal proofs are useful in mathematics, but even there it has been shown that any non-trivial consistent arithmetic system will contain true but unprovable statements.

    Physics is in the business of providing evidence for (or against) hypotheses. When enough evidence is accumulated we consider this to be a preliminary verification of the hypothesis. That Neptune should be made of the same matter as here is the null hypothesis based on the invariance of physical law, which is supported by a mountain of empirical evidence. Direct evidence for this invariance is obtained, for instance, by imaging and spectroscopy of the planet.

    "But in all honesty, you wouldn't believe in a miracle if you saw one now would you?"

    I don't know what a "miracle" is to begin with, but if I saw something inexplicable of a similar magnitude as "Biblical miracles," and there could be no mistake that I really saw this (as opposed to dreamt or confabulated), then my first assumption would not be that it was something supernatural. If the Pacific parted in front of me so that I could walk from Hawaii to Maui, I would be very surprised, but no doubt before I had the chance to do anything, a flurry of scientist would already be setting up instruments and making measurements in order to figure out what's going on. If after a thorough scientific scrutiny and examination of the data no natural explanation seems plausible, then I might consider the possibility of super-advanced (but thoroughly natural) aliens playing a prank, or that something supernatural had intervened. How does that sound?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Good Day S. Skinner,

    “This is called deism and, amazingly enough, DOESN'T include mystical experiences- a deist God does NOT intervene.

    Actually it is not necessarily deism. The God of Aristotle and the Scholastic Philosophers (St. Aquinas) use metaphysics to arrive at a God with similar properties as a deist God, but they do not necessarily preclude the possibility of divine intervention. By definition, deism is the ‘belief’ that God does not intervene, but logically, any omnipotent God (such a deist one) could intervene in his creation if he desired to do so. In fact, it is entirely possible that all religions are wrong to a certain extent, but this does not necessarily dictate whether or not God exists or if he intervenes in his creation, irrespective of the religious beliefs of his created creatures.


    ”They claim to understand God enough to declare what he does and does not want. As do all other religions.”

    True, but as above, this does not mean that they are right in their claim nor does this have bearing on God’s existence or non-existence. In addition, both Aristotle and St. Aquinas derived their ethics from their metaphysics—namely “Natural Law”—not revelation.


    ”A blind person first needs to find out the existance of sight. They can do this by learning that others can tell things at a distance and work from there.”

    Except, by your statement, the blind person does not experience sight, but relies on the testimony of others without every being able to empirical verify the claims. But if you admit this, then now empirical evidence does not absolutely matter, but trust can be counted as a form of evidence. So what if I completely trust a friend that told me he has seen God?


    ”In the military, they gave out night vision gear, right? Imagine that you have never used it, but a buddy is and he tells you that a person is approaching.”

    That is because I trust my friend, not because I have empirically verified his claim. Thus, by your reasoning, if I have a trusted friend who tells me he has seen God, I should believe in God.


    ”Nope. When I recieve light, other people can to. However, a personal experience is exclusive to a single person.”

    Experience is always exclusive to a single person. When a scientist performs an experiment, that exact experiment (meaning how it happens, when it happens, exactly how it happens, etc) is exclusive to him and will never be exactly repeated by anyone else. It is an exclusive experience.


    ”Actually we can. We get a telescope and have it print out the results in braille. Problem solved. That wasn't hard. A blind person can't see in regular light, but normal people can't see in X rays.”

    Here you raise an even further point. Why do I trust that the telescope has been built properly? Why do I trust the people that built it? In order to have a true sensory experience that I could wholly trust, technically, I would have to build a telescope from scratch myself. Even worse, I would have to smelt and acquire the pieces myself for me to be sure of their trustworthy to be assured. Thus, we see the ‘empirical evidence only’ stance taken to absurdity, for unless we invest trust in others at various levels, we could achieve nothing, but if we are willing to trust a scientist, why not a trustworthy mystic?


    ”Additionally, we have the prediction based on the orbit of Saturn the existance of Neptune. You see the math shows that the orbit is slightly off as if it is being moved by another body and...”

    So you admit that mathematics, which are non-empirical, can provide truth? If you admit this, then you admit that other fields, such as metaphysics, can also point to truth, which opens a whole new argument for God’s existence.


    ”Throughtout history people have described coming into contact with incredible things- we went from Olypian Gods, to Saints and currently we have aliens. Unless you are claiming that throught history we have had alien creatures that were very interested in people and sex I think the most resonable conclusion is hallucinations.”

    That is the most ‘reasonable’ explanation for you because you are admitting other forms of arguments than the empirical. But based on empirical evidence only, certain people would be fully justified in believing that aliens exist. Furthermore, if you admit that senses can be subject to hallucinations, etc., then what is your evidence to show that the senses that scientists use to record their observations are not subject to the same type of mental hallucinations, etc. Should I stop trusting science? Why not?


    "Empirical evidence is based on sensory experience and thus, if someone has a sensory experience of God, then this counts as empirical evidence for God’s existence. Thus, rather then dismissing evidence, I am simply asking, why are atheists so willing to accept the sensory evidence of scientists, but not of religious mystics?"

    ”One is repeatable and one isn't”.

    Excuse me, but there are hundreds of ‘mystics’ in the world that have had repeatable God experiences. Just because you have not empirically verified them, does not mean that they have not occurred.


    ”Not really. If they were exposed to the evidence, they would see that the time of heat and cold varies accross the planet. In fact, it varies so that when one half has longer days, another has shorter ones.”

    Another assumption based on no empirical evidence but rather the innate belief that you can ‘know’ what a blind person would think when presented with a seeing person’s evidence. Not a very empirically rational position to hold.


    ”Great. What sense is a mystic using? It isn't sight, sound, smell, touch or taste.”

    Many mystics have claimed to have seen, tasted, felt or touched God. Therefore, they use the same senses as you do. You have no way of empirically disproving their claim.


    ”We are smart enough to know when our senses our haw wire- sometimes at least.”

    How do you know this to be the case if you relying solely on the very senses that are broken to inform you that they are broken? This seems like a strange case of circular logic to me.


    ”I don't understand engineering- i do know that they can build bridges that don't collapse. I don't know how to do surgery, but I do see that our LE is better than those who can't get it. I believe in many of the things I can't verify because it gets RESULTS. For example, I believe in atomic theory because nuclear weapons have been used to put out fires.”

    Interesting, because many claim that mystics should be taken seriously because of the results they achieve. Such common elements shared by the vast majority of mystics as: total serenity, at peace with suffering and death, focus on important aspects of life, rather then the useless, etc. So, if it can be shown that mystical techniques (prayer, meditation) proceed similar results in most people, would you believe?


    “What happens when evidence contradicts itself? Obviously your senses are flawed and the evidence wasn't recieved correctly.”

    Obviously? Empirically, nothing is obvious or clear. Empirically, when evidence contradicts itself, you take the evidence that affects most of the senses. However, the very fact that personal sensory experience can contradict itself brings it ‘truthfulness’ into question.



    "But this supports my point. Thus, based on empirical evidence and because they experience things differently (as you state), sensory impaired people can claim that you are delusional in many of the beliefs that you hold and they are right in doing so because truth only depends on subjective sensory experience. Using this argument, a person who has “experienced” God, can claim that you are delusional for not believing in Him and while you can disagree with this person, you cannot empirically show that he is wrong. "


    ”Why not? People see things that aren't there often. Ever seen after images in your eyes?”

    No, people see things that are not there to you! To them, those things are there and empirically, they are correct in believing in them.


    "So why is it rational to ‘trust’ certain people (ie - scientists) for certain things that one cannot verify for oneself, but not to trust other people (mystics) for other things that one cannot personally verify? "

    ”Because they can make things happen.”

    Clearly mystics can make things happen, and such things are externally verifiable, such as their attitude or actions or behavior that changes in a certain way after their mystical experience. Thus, they should be trusted.


    ”As for God, the experiences you are talking about are internal experiences brought on by extreme conditions. You know, the type that mess with your senses. But I guess that God likes to hide there, right?”

    First, define ‘extreme’ conditions. Next, rather than simply assert things, please empirically prove that all ‘extreme’ conditions mess with your senses. Furthermore, show that all mystical experiences are only brought about by ‘extreme’ conditions.


    ”Of course the theory [multiverse] is biased towards naturalism- we have no evidence for no natural forces and science is made so that it EXCLUDES supernatural explanations.”
    But that is not the point, the point is that certain scientists are willing to believe in an unobserved and unverified theory—quite similar to the atheist’s claimed problem of God’s existence—simply because it provides an explanation that supports their pre-conceived worldview. That is not science nor does it smack of scientific integrity, but just shows that scientists can irrationally see and believe what they wish to, as much as the rest of us.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

    ReplyDelete
  21. Good Evening Adonais,

    Just a question concerning this comment:

    "...but if I saw something inexplicable of a similar magnitude as "Biblical miracles," and there could be no mistake that I really saw this (as opposed to dreamt or confabulated), then my first assumption would not be that it was something supernatural. If the Pacific parted in front of me so that I could walk from Hawaii to Maui, I would be very surprised, but no doubt before I had the chance to do anything, a flurry of scientist would already be setting up instruments and making measurements in order to figure out what's going on. If after a thorough scientific scrutiny and examination of the data no natural explanation seems plausible, then I might consider the possibility of super-advanced (but thoroughly natural) aliens playing a prank, or that something supernatural had intervened. How does that sound?"

    Would you consider that the universe is, as shown by science, strangely 'tuned' for the emergence of life and what theory do you use to answer this "miracle"?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

    ReplyDelete
  22. Ok, my original comments are bolded, and your reply is in italics.
    ”You do realize that unless all of those mystics have had experiences that lead them to the xian god then your using them as evidence of your god is useless, right?”
    What is very interesting is that you have assumed I am a Christian and am speaking of the Christian concept of God as I never mentioned anything to that effect in my post or my comments.
    What I find interesting is that on your own blog the tagline says: Original Articles on Christianity, Atheism and Other Socio-Religious Subjects that Demand Rigorous Debate, Discussion and Dissection.

    When I was in the Army, we had a funny saying about assuming something (due to the fact that it could lead to our death): “When you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME. Therefore, please do not assume I am speaking of the Christian concept of God, as I am simply speaking of the God of the Philosophers;
    Need I remind you of what it says on your own blog page again?? If I was mistaken that you were a christian, or talking about the xian god, I daresay that after reading Original Articles on Christianity, Atheism and Other Socio-Religious Subjects that Demand Rigorous Debate, Discussion and Dissection on your blog's page, it was a pretty safe assumption.


    I am speaking of Aristotle’s God. In addition, no Christian claims to understand God exactly and all human conceptions of it are far short of the mark, so even Christian mystical experience might be only part of experiencing God.
    But, they get enough from the experience to be able to tell that it's the christian god, do they not? Even if they don't completely understand their god, they know enough to be able to tell what their god is like so as to be able to compare him to the Muslim god.


    So then you're proved my point then that your reasoning can be taken by any theist and used as evidence of their god.

    A saying in science, somewhat applicable: "A theory that can explain everything explains nothing".


    ”Besides, there is another problem with this reasoning of yours: blind people lack a particular sense that seeing people possess.”
    This is exactly my point. Empirical evidence depends absolutely on the senses. Therefore, by your standards, blind people should not believe in Neptune, the Sun, the Moon, other galaxies, etc. for they can never by empirically verified by that blind person.
    You've forgotten something. The evidence for the Sun itself, remember? You know, the heat in daytime and the coolness of night? One doesn't need sight to verify that.

    Besides, unlike with any "god" there ARE people who have seen the sun, moon, etc. There are satellites that have been sent up, etc. When the preponderence of evidence starts to pile up, maybe it's not a delusion?

    That was my point. What extra "sense" does the theist have that lets them "sense" any "god"?


    ”As I've shown, "experiencing" god really doesn't mean anything. That's kind of why we ask for empirical evidence.”
    This statement is inherently contradictory as receiving any empirical evidence means experiencing it.
    Maybe I should have said "corroborative" evidence, like multiple eyewitnesses, pictures, predictions or verified tests? If all you've got to go on is the word of one person with no corroborating evidence, that sometimes isn't even enough in a court of law.


    When a scientist conducts an experiment, he experiences the results with his senses. Thus, to personally gain empirical evidence, one must experience it. And therefore, from an empirical sense, experiencing God means a great deal.
    So then, which of the same senses that scientists use to gain empirical evidence is used to experience "god"? Can you see him, hear her, touch them, smell it?

    Besides, you're leaving a few things out of the scientific view: Science experiments are logged, analyzed, and can be repeated by others. Tests are made, predictions are either verified or thrown out.


    ”Another problem with your analogy is this: In real life, atheists and theists have access to the same sensory information. People who are blind and sighted people do not.”
    Again, this is exactly my point. This means that if things are only true if we have empirical evidence for them, then the existence of Neptune is both true--for the seeing atheist--and false--for the blind atheist
    No, you're leaving out the actual testimony of those who have seen Neptune, and the fact that it's existence was originally predicted because of observed oddities in the orbits of other planets.

    What predictions and tests have been done to prove the existence of your "god"?

    --and each can claim that the other is delusional and cannot empirically convince the other of his position. Just ask your self this: have you personally and empirically verified everything that you believe?
    For the things that are non-supernatural, there's been no real need. Besides, most of what I learn and accept can at least be looked up, researched and verified.

    If you hold empirical evidence in such disregard, let me ask again: What's to stop anyone from saying that any crazy belief is valid?


    “The correct analogy is not a blind person failing to see a planet that everyone else sees, but a sighted person claiming to see a planet that other equally-sighted people don't.”
    The problem is that I am actually not making an analogy but am asking a serious question:
    You've done both. And yes, your analogy still fails. Why? In real life, there are sighted people who have seen Neptune, and can explain the history of it's discovery etc.

    How many theists have "seen god"?

    how could a blind atheist be empirically convinced of the existence of Neptune or any other heavenly body? And is such a blind atheist empirically justified in claiming that people who believe in Neptune are delusional?
    Not if those who make that claim back up that claim with historical evidence of how it was originally discovered. Besides, we've sent satellites to Neptune.

    That'd have to be one DOOZY of a delusion.


    Got any good satellite picture of god yet?

    You have yet to answer this question through empirical methods.
    I believe I just have.




    “Unless you can show that all of those angel claims are from your god as opposed to say the Islamic god or the god of Mormon, then your reasoning falls apart again. After all, isn't that how Islam and Mormonism got started was by "angel sightings"?”
    Again, thank you for proving my point. For if I am not affiliated with any religion
    Which of course explains the caption on your own blog: Original Articles on Christianity, Atheism and Other Socio-Religious Subjects that Demand Rigorous Debate, Discussion and Dissection.
    It's certainly possible that a non-christian theist would be interested in talking about the xian god, but from just looking at your title there, the impression one gets is that you are a memeber of their faith.


    ...and based on common angel sightings, what I could claim is the following: while all religions are at least partially wrong in their claims, but because all believers of different religions have experienced angel sightings, then strong evidence (based on various sensory testimony of numbers of people) exists for the statement ‘Angels, in general but not particular to any religion, exist.’
    You don't have a point: Each religion claims to be the only true one while the others are false. Care to explain then?

    Could it be that at least one group is lying about the angel encounters, or is just plain wrong? If one is, then how do you know that the others are not?

    By that same token, what about UFO sightings and alien abudction stories??

    If you are actually saying that each of those religions must be at least partially "right" based on the stories that people could make up, based on no evidence, then whatever religon you're backing is not the christian religion or any religion at all, but some vague, undefined theism.

    The fact that you're here advocating what sounds like deism or some fuzzy theism shows that the blog owners here are either desperate or are a lot more liberal-minded than most other christian bloggers.


    “As I said earlier, your analogy is just a way of dismissing the skeptics claim of demanding actual evidence for your claim.“
    Please stop saying that I am dismissing the need for evidence, for you are missing the main point.
    As soon as you stop doing it, I'll stop saying it.

    Empirical evidence is based on sensory experience and thus, if someone has a sensory experience of God, then this counts as empirical evidence for God’s existence.
    How can you tell that it's the "real" god, then? I'm sure that any christian (or Muslim) would want to know...

    Besides, can this "sensory experience" be repeated like, say, the scientific experiements we were referring to earlier? How can you tell that the person is not just making things up?

    Thus, rather then dismissing evidence, I am simply asking, why are atheists so willing to accept the sensory evidence of scientists, but not of religious mystics?
    Remember what I said about the repeatability of scientific experiments, the results of which generally can be used in the world at large at some point?


    ”An earth "atmosphere"?? If the earth's "atsmosphere" is supposed to be generating the heat, then you'd have to explain why the temperature goes down for half of the time even with the atmosphere -- you know, at night!? If you start trying to come up with any weird stuff about how the atmosphere generates heat only during part of the day, then it's going to be your explanation that's going to get awkard.”
    Reynold, please do not get side-tracked (and I apologize if I caused it). My point is that for a blind atheist using Occam’s Razor and demanding empirical evidence for the Sun (for example), it would always be simpler to postulate heat from an earthly, or close to earth, source than it would be to postulate the existence of a massive nuclear energy ball floating in space millions upon millions of miles of miles away. That is the only point I am trying to make.
    And I shot that point down by pointing out a weakness of the alternate "explanation" you gave for the heat being generated by an "earthly atmosphere".

    How is defeating your explanation getting "sidetracked"? I've just shown how your reasoning can be proven wrong.


    “Tnen by your reasoning then, Islamists or members of any other religion on the planet who claim to have had "personal effect" by the deity of their religion may actually be justified in their beliefs…. And we've seen that your reasoning, or more precisely your excuse for avoiding evidence can lead to all sorts of religions springing up, as Islamists, Hindus, etc can use the same reasoning you do.”
    Absolutely. And this is the point, if we rely absolutely on empirical evidence and only empirical evidence, then the only thing that we should believe in is personal and subjective sensory experience,
    Well, you've left out things like scientific experiements which carry over into the working world, stuff like people corroborating each other's testimony, etc...

    which means that you cannot call someone who experienced God is delusional
    Without corroborating evidence of some sort, I still can.

    nor can you claim that the blind atheist is wrong in not believing in the existence of Neptune.
    With all the evidence for the existence of Nepture, including the satellite imagery taken of it which anyone with site can attest to (Again, how many people have "seen" any "god"?), as well as the fact that Neptune's existence was predicted based on orbital patterns of the othe planets

    You have no ground to discount these if all we rely on is empirical evidence.
    You don't know how evidence gathering works, it seems. Again, your reasoning is just a fancy justification for letting any crazy idea, theology or experience into the door. Without any evidence, how can you pick out the right "god"?


    ”Again, once you dismiss the need for actual evidence, you're stuck with the potential for all sorts of crazy ideas and religious beliefs that can spring up.”
    Actually, once all you accept is empirical evidence as truth, then you wind up with absurdity, as shown in my post.
    I'm not the one whose views forces him to accept at face value any story that anyone could make up without any evidence...


    ”My pointing out that my question: "What's to stop the worshippers of other invisible unverfiable "gods" from using your own analogy against the atheists that they deal with in their homelands?
    Is not a delection...”

    Nothing at all can stop them and again, this is my point, if empirical evidence
    There's also historical evidence, and again, scientific tests, trials, etc.

    is the only way to truth, then truth means subjective sensory experience. But by the same token, you, as an atheist, have no empirical argument against me if I claim that I have experienced God.
    Yes, I do: Can you describe him? Did he tell you something about me that only a "god" would know? There's a lot of ways that "god" can be tested (as is done in science) but theists never go for that. Did he give you any predictions about the future? Did he give you any insights about the past?

    And you seem to keep missing the point: How can anyone find out which "god" is the real "god" when they're using your reasoning for it?

    Remember, the goal of each theistic group is to convert people to a particular god, not just "the god of the philosphers" or somesuch.


    “No deflection at all: If those other people are experiencing "false gods", then they are not experiencing your god at all, are they? They must be experiencing something else, must they?”
    Not at all. Perhaps God decides to reveal Himself in different ways to different people or people perceive Him at a certain level or depth.
    Such a way though, leads to the formation of different religions which contradict each other and fight each other. Again, how can one pick out the "one true god" from that mess that your reasoning lets in?

    I believe that takes care of your analogy below.
    Let me explain. When I look at a piece of bark, I see a brown, hard piece of wood, but if I looked at the same piece of bark through an electron microscope, I would see electrons, protons, etc. In both cases I am looking at the same piece of bark but am seeing and experiencing two completely different things, but has the bark changed?
    It hasn't but the problem is: You're just using different ways of looking at it, not contradictory ways. When you look at a bark with your eyes, you see the bark. When you look at it under a micrsocope, you don't see rock all of a sudden.

    The "great" religions out there frequently do contradict each other. At best your bark analogy may work at the level of different denominations of the same religion, but that's only after the "correct" god has been found.




    ----You said to Samuel Skinner:
    the point is that certain scientists are willing to believe in an unobserved and unverified theory—quite similar to the atheist’s claimed problem of God’s existence—simply because it provides an explanation that supports their pre-conceived worldview. That is not science nor does it smack of scientific integrity, but just shows that scientists can irrationally see and believe what they wish to, as much as the rest of us.
    That's why there's such things as peer review and publication of experiments and test results, so that experiments can be repeated. To cut down and root that kind of thing out.

    What does religion have, in comparison if one is to leave out empirical evidences?

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  23. RD Miksa,

    For the sake of discussion, let's say that I have personally empirically verified Neptune's existence. If I later go blind, should I doubt my previous verification?

    Here's a better question: let's say that I personally empirically verified Neptune's existence today. How often should I re-verifiy its existence, since it is possible - in principle - that it might simply vanish while I'm not looking?

    A more down-to-Earth question: in 2007 the Bureau of Engraving and Printing claims to have printed $750 million of paper currency each day. I never saw more than a couple hundred bucks on any particular day of that fiscal year, and much of what I saw had been printed prior to 2007. In your opinion, RD Miksa, should anyone who values "empiricism" take the Bureau of Engraving and Printing at its word?

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  24. "...I could go and speak to various other Carmelite NunsI...could confidently assert that God (with no specific characteristics mentioned) exists."
    No. You've gone to Carmelite Nuns (who, sadly, aren't made out of caramel). Which god do they follow? The vague one with no specific characteristics or backstory?
    You would end up confidently asserting that their god exists (unless Carmelites are really, really vague nuns with prayers like "Oh thing who is in place, unknown be thy name..."). Then you'd visit some Sufi mystics and come to the same conclusion about Allah. Then you'd visit some Hindu mystics and come back dressed like Sgt Pepper (oh, and you'd have concluded that their gods are real). Then go see a native american tribe...and a native australian...and the hundreds of different African groups, and... Taken together, it might strengthen the case for something, but it wouldn't be any one theism (and it wouldn't be non-interentionalist deism)...Marshmallowism? Tweenism? Hallucinationism?. The Church of the Possibly Probable Undefined Thing does sound nice, though, but good luck trying to get tax exempt.

    "Thus, for example, you have scientists proposing an unobserved and untested multiverse theory...”
    Actually, the primary impetus being the multiverse hypothesis is that it makes for some pretty good (and a lot of really bad) Sci-Fi stories.

    "...in order to naturally answer the issue of the universe’s “fine-tuning"
    Yeah. Douglas Adams answered that one in just a paragraph or two, and he wasn't even a scientist!

    "What this points to is the fact that scientists are as liable as everyone else to make interpretations of data that suit their worldviews and since, most often, I must rely on their interpretation of data rather than hard data itself, I am cautiously sceptical of scientists."
    You should be cautiously skeptical of everyone. I try to be. Especially if there's money involved.

    "But here is the rub..."
    Lower. Left. Left. Now scratch. Ah. I can never reach that spot. Thanks.
    Or, on topic, scientific investigation is the only method that attempts to minimize man's effect on his experiment. This is why woo, which always works when wooers are wooing, only shows up as placebo when done double-blind.

    "Thus the question remains, if you had two people (one scientist and one mystic) that you knew to be trustworthy and one told you that he had discovered unseen quarks and the other told you that he had felt God, why would you be inclined to trust the authority of the one but not the other?"
    How vague is this god? If you get vague enough, it just falls under the banner of spiritual, and I would believe the second guy (I have had that experience. Personal experience again, eh?). He experienced something. I think we've all had an experience something like that (if god is defined as beauty or music or art), but that's not the god who makes people fly planes into buildings or keeps sex-ed out of schools. A god, sufficiently fuzzy around the edges and fuzzy in the middle, is not the one of the problematic gods.
    That god, my friend, is the stoner god.

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  25. Good Evening Dave,

    “For the sake of discussion, let's say that I have personally empirically verified Neptune's existence. If I later go blind, should I doubt my previous verification?”

    Should you? If you believe that only empirical evidence counts, then you should not. In fact, you have no empirical evidence to confirm that your computer continues to exist once you leave the room and close the door. And here rests the absurdity of claiming that only ‘personal empirical evidence’ counts as evidence towards truth.


    ”Here's a better question: let's say that I personally empirically verified Neptune's existence today. How often should I re-verifiy its existence, since it is possible - in principle - that it might simply vanish while I'm not looking?”

    Again, this is the problem with the hard ‘empirical evidence’ only position; in the end, its final position must be radical and absolute skepticism of everything not immediately experienced by the senses, thus rendering science, life, etc. untenable.


    ”A more down-to-Earth question: in 2007 the Bureau of Engraving and Printing claims to have printed $750 million of paper currency each day. I never saw more than a couple hundred bucks on any particular day of that fiscal year, and much of what I saw had been printed prior to 2007. In your opinion, RD Miksa, should anyone who values "empiricism" take the Bureau of Engraving and Printing at its word?”

    But here is the issue, you believe them because you trust them, but you do not trust them because you have empirically verified their claims. Rather, you trust them because you grant them trustworthiness unless contrary evidence is presented. But if trust of others is admitted as a legitimate criteria for truth, then why would you immediately disbelieve a fully trustworthy mystic—who has nothing to gain—when he tells you that he has “seen” God?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  26. Hello Again Modus,

    “No. You've gone to Carmelite Nuns (who, sadly, aren't made out of caramel). Which god do they follow? The vague one with no specific characteristics or backstory?
    You would end up confidently asserting that their god exists (unless Carmelites are really, really vague nuns with prayers like "Oh thing who is in place, unknown be thy name..."). Then you'd visit some Sufi mystics and come to the same conclusion about Allah. Then you'd visit some Hindu mystics and come back dressed like Sgt Pepper (oh, and you'd have concluded that their gods are real). Then go see a native american tribe...and a native australian...and the hundreds of different African groups, and... Taken together, it might strengthen the case for something, but it wouldn't be any one theism (and it wouldn't be non-interentionalist deism)...Marshmallowism? Tweenism? Hallucinationism?.”

    Actually, an interesting facet concerning mystical experiences is precisely that after the experience itself, many mystics clearly explain that the human method of describing the divine is wholly inadequate and misunderstood. In fact, in many cases, they describe their experiences as indescribable. In addition, many Christian Mystics or Muslim Sifus were almost found to be heretical precisely because their experiences seemed to contradict the doctrinal teachings of their religion.

    Anyway, what could be easily done with these experiences is, much like a detective taking the statements of multiple witness, the experiences could be compiled and the similarities taken to show the core experience, even if the specifics differ, thus making a strong case for that core experience.


    ”Yeah. Douglas Adams answered that one in just a paragraph or two, and he wasn't even a scientist!”

    Please, Douglas Adams and his ‘answer’ are a joke. Considering that many respected physicists consider this a major problem, I must take them at their word (unless, of course, I only subscribe to empirical evidence, at which point I should discard the “fine-tuning” argument because I have not personally verified it.


    ”You should be cautiously skeptical of everyone. I try to be. Especially if there's money involved.”

    Absolutely, but how many of us, atheists included, are genuinely skeptical of everyone? Much like human nature, most people are skeptical of those they do not agree with and supportive of those that they do agree with.


    “How vague is this god? If you get vague enough, it just falls under the banner of spiritual, and I would believe the second guy (I have had that experience. Personal experience again, eh?). He experienced something. I think we've all had an experience something like that…”

    It is quite interesting that you admit this. Can I ask then, do you believe in a spiritual or afterlife realm? Are you an atheist?


    “…but that's not the god who makes people fly planes into buildings or keeps sex-ed out of schools. A god, sufficiently fuzzy around the edges and fuzzy in the middle, is not the one of the problematic gods.”

    For the sake of argument, I will admit this, but let me also make clear that your statement holds no bearing on God’s existence or non-existence as perhaps all revealed are wrong. But the question then is, based on the personal and trustworthy testimony of numerous mystics, would you admit that a case could be made for such an undefined God? Because once this door is opened, then the specifics of each religion can be investigated.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  27. "My point is that if empirical evidence, based on subjective sensory input, is all that can count as evidence for the existence of anything (rather than metaphysical arguments, etc.)"

    Empirical evidence is not only based on subjective sensory input - most of physics relies on mindless instruments that remove many sources of potential subjectiveness (astronomers don't "look" through telescopes anymore, they use CCD cameras; sky surveys are automated and done by robotic telescopes; statistics, classification and data mining are done by computer algorithms, etc). To my knowledge, metaphysical arguments have never counted as evidence for anything, and I don't know that they ever will, so the premises for your following statement are both invalid. Again you lapse into the "belief" equivocation from before:

    "then by necessity all people are delusional for all people believe a vast amount of things that they have not personally or empirically verified—such as the existence of Neptune."

    All people believe a vast amount of things, but they believe it in different ways. Already you are ignoring the fact that planet belief and God belief are not in the same category. Planets can be detected by objective methods. If gods could be detected by objective methods then the current evidence for their existence is nil; and if you say that they can not be detected by objective methods, then they are not in the same category as planets. Your next statement:

    "Therefore, the atheist is as delusional as the religious believer

    just doesn't follow unless you specify what it is that they are delusional about. In the case of Neptune, both can agree on the correctness of the belief, as anyone so able and inclined can verify it for themselves by the aid of modern technology. In the case of God, such independent verification appears to be denied to atheists, making them perfectly rational in their belief that "God" is an imaginary concept concocted by theistic religions. To believe in the propositional correctness of the existence of God remains irrational, but I don't know why you're trying so hard to rationalize it; this is just how religions are. Just accept it - even Tertullian and Kirkegaard did!

    "I make no claim to be able to distinguish. That is my point: if truth is only based on empirical evidence (as many atheists claim) which, in turn, is only derived from subjective sensory experience, then the world collapses into absurdity. This is the logical finality of ‘empirical evidence only’."

    In addition to repeating the "only subjective sensory experience" misconception which we just addressed above, you now you appear to be equivocating between establishing truth in fundamental science and the mundane proximate truths that we happily employ in everyday life. True enough: if we established truth in our lives by the same principles as in particle physics, our lives would indeed become absurd. But nobody is arguing that we should do that.

    "But this supports my point. Thus, based on empirical evidence and because they experience things differently (as you state), sensory impaired people can claim that you are delusional in many of the beliefs that you hold and they are right in doing so because truth only depends on subjective sensory experience."

    Even if a congenitally blind person came to believe (falsely) that such a thing as "seeing" does not even exist, and that people who claimed to "see" were deluding themselves, then this belief would not by any stretch of the imagination be correct. After all I can see Neptune, while a blind person can't, so if they claim Neptune does not exist even after what they have heard about it, I would be fully rational in concluding that there's something funny going on inside their head.

    Now, the only situation I can think of wherein such a pathological argument (which you appear to be fond of) could possibly be of interest, would be if there were indeed people with extra senses in addition to the standard human senses. Is this what you are claiming, that theists have ESP that allows them to sense God?

    "Using this argument, a person who has “experienced” God, can claim that you are delusional for not believing in Him and while you can disagree with this person, you cannot empirically show that he is wrong."

    I can not empirically prove that he is wrong, but I can empirically examine his body and establish that he has no extra-sensory perception organ, so we should be on the same page physiologically at least. If he still claims to see God, then the most likely candidate for that experience is the brain, which has been known to do a lot of funny things.

    Show me the evidence that you have this ESP ability - unless - oh no! - you can only show this to someone else who already has this ESP! What a conundrum. So we have a flock of religious believers with enhanced human perceptions roaming the planet. Not a happy thought. But wait. What about all those converted atheists who became believers - did they grow this ESP organ somehow? I confess I find this whole idea rather disturbing.

    "So why is it rational to ‘trust’ certain people (ie - scientists) for certain things that one cannot verify for oneself, but not to trust other people (mystics) for other things that one cannot personally verify?"

    What scientific knowledge (in the sense of hypotheses well supported by evidence) do you think you could not verify for yourself?

    What mystic "knowledge" of another individual do you think you could verify for yourself?

    "The point is that empirical evidence means that subjective sensory experience is the only truth"

    As explained already, most (if not all) empirical evidence in the natural sciences does not rely on a single individual's subjective sensory experience.

    "and the atheist possess no greater hold on truth or rationality than the believer."

    You keep chanting this like a mantra. You want them to be either equally correct and rational or equally incorrect and irrational. But those are mutually exclusive combinations.

    "Incorrect. Empirically speaking, the existence of Neptune has been established for certain people (such as those that can see) but not for others"

    Phenomenalistic rubbish.

    "By the same token, empirically speaking, the existence of God has been verified by those who have experienced Him through some type of mystical experience but not for those who have not."

    So you do claim that those who "experience God" possess some extra sensory perception ability that others (atheists?) lack? That's the only reading in which your blind/seeing analogies could possibly make any sense.

    "My argument is that demanding empirical evidence through subjective sensory experience as the only means to truth leads to total absurdity."

    Fourth time? I think we have dealt with this misconception twice already.

    "Actually, if I accept the premise that many atheists do, that empirical evidence based on subjective sensory experience is the only valid means of truth,"

    Fifth... (I won't comment on arguments that are just repetitions)

    "Thus, empirically speaking, religion is as rational as atheism."

    Wow, this one again.

    "Well, to be honest, one of the reasons that I am skeptical of scientists is because they are human "

    Well you got me there. Although humans are a lot better than macaques or rhododendrons at finding things out, you have to admit.

    "these "scientists" support their own pre-conceived naturalistic worldview while deceitfully claiming they are behaving as rational scientists unmoved by inherent bias. Thus, scientists are as willing to change, twist and interpret evidence to support their views as any other person is."

    You could have graduated from Mariano's school of anti-science. But you did say something interesting at the end: "...as any other person..."

    "Remember, if you are going to be a skeptic, you best be a skeptic about everything, not just what you wish to be skeptical about."

    Of course, and I hope that you will take your own advice and apply it not just to science and scientists but to religions and theists, and in particular to the Judeo-Christian doctrines, myths and beliefs that you espouse, and their makers.

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  28. Adonais,

    A full answer tomorrow, but let me ask you this:

    "Empirical evidence is not only based on subjective sensory input - most of physics relies on mindless instruments that remove many sources of potential subjectiveness (astronomers don't "look" through telescopes anymore, they use CCD cameras; sky surveys are automated and done by robotic telescopes; statistics, classification and data mining are done by computer algorithms, etc)."

    Who reads, sees or interprets the data from these mindless instruments? Scientists.

    How do they read, see and interpret this data? Through their senses, thus leading back to the subjective sensory experience problem.

    Let me give you an example. Two scientists, totally separate and unknown to each other, use a mindless instrument to take a picture of a planet. That planet happens to be red. When the picture is printed, one scientist looks at it and sees that it is red, the other, however, sees a gray planet because he is color-blind. Both scientist relay their respective findings to other sources, but which one is empirically correct? Both are, because if they both believe that what is true is only what their senses tell them, then they are both empirically justified in their respective beliefs. And thus, we return once again to the problem of subjective sensory experience as a problem in science and the issue is not answered.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  29. "It is quite interesting that you admit this. Can I ask then, do you believe in a spiritual or afterlife realm?"
    I doubt very much that any of the revealed religions are right, but I don't disbelieve in the possibility of something. That's about as specific as I get, pending evidence beyond the anecdotal for more specific somethings.

    "Are you an atheist?"
    Yes. I'm also a sometimes agnostic and occasional deist.

    "But the question then is, based on the personal and trustworthy testimony of numerous mystics, would you admit that a case could be made for such an undefined God?"
    Sure. If you sufficiently undefine things, then a case can be made for everything.

    "Because once this door is opened, then the specifics of each religion can be investigated."
    Actually, we don't need to open a door, as the theisms tend to have active, interventionalist gods that purport to open the door themselves. As such, even if they themselves remain undetectable, their actions (and historical claims) can be compared to the real world. Then, inevitably, literal texts become metaphor or poetry (except in the eyes of some, where they get more literal the more the reality-based evidence stacks against that interpretation). When they get specific, they fail. I'll stick (for the most part) with the null hypothesis; atheism.

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  30. "Would you consider that the universe is, as shown by science, strangely 'tuned' for the emergence of life and what theory do you use to answer this "miracle"?"

    You could have asked about the universe without loading the question - there is no cause for inserting the word "miracle." Nevertheless I'll tell you what I think.

    I would reserve judgment for now, because I can't tell whether the universe is fine-tuned for life (definition of "life" required) or merely for our kind of life - or indeed whether it is fine-tuned at all rather than just an observer selection effect. There are even more exotic possibilities than these. You can read about some of them in Paul Davies's book "The Goldilocks Enigma."

    So I reserve judgment until more facts are in. I do not require an answer, and have no desire or obligation to commit to one. You could say, I have no belief on the matter.

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  31. Zilch is totally missing the party here..

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  32. RD Miksa,

    As I suspected, from your answers to my questions, you are conflating philosophical empiricism with scientific empiricism, but failing to explicitly take the next logical step in that line of thinking and declare that all modern empiricists (because they can gather evidence that demonstrates that their senses are unreliable) should be solipsists, doubting everything that doesn't originate within their own minds.

    This "atheists should be solipsists" meme is both very common and very wrong. It's actually pretty easy to work one's way out of the dank solipsistic pit, and so settle upon the idea that an objective reality exists, without the need to inject faith in any form along the way. And once one agrees to the existence of an objective reality, then the question of which sense(s) detect Neptune or the Sun or even the Earth itself is moot.

    Because telescopes aren't sight. Using your definition of "empirical," the empirical verification of Neptune is simply impossible by human beings. They would be killed by the planet's gravity long before they ever "personally" sensed it. So there's no reason to discount a blind person's use of technology which could render a tactile version of the view from a telescope. They are fundamentally the same thing: the artificial expansion of a person's senses.

    Of course, the worst missing part of your argument is the fact that an all-powerful being could inject visions of a non-existent Neptune into every telescope. Adding the "god hypothesis" simply makes all viewpoints, empirical or not, equally suspect. With the possibility of a deity in the mix, the steps I took towards concluding that there is an objective reality in the first place are null and void.

    You see, it is theism which should lead to solipsism, not atheism.

    In response to my question about whether the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's (BEP) statement about how much money it printed should be accepted by empiricists, you said,

    "But here is the issue, you believe them because you trust them, but you do not trust them because you have empirically verified their claims. Rather, you trust them because you grant them trustworthiness unless contrary evidence is presented. But if trust of others is admitted as a legitimate criteria for truth, then why would you immediately disbelieve a fully trustworthy mystic—who has nothing to gain—when he tells you that he has “seen” God?"

    But none of this answers my question. I certainly never said that I believed the BEP's claim, you just assumed that I would. My actual response is irrelevant to the question put to you. You just made up a silly answer for me (the idea that I "trust" the BEP) in order to argue against it, a classic strawman - a diversionary tactic that allowed you to completely avoid answering the question as asked.

    The real response I would have given (if I were the one being asked a similar question) is that the "truth" of the claim is trivial, and so it doesn't matter. If the BEP's figure is off by a couple orders of magnitude either way, it won't affect me, or those important to me, or society as a whole, in any great way.

    So who gives a damn whether it's $750 million or $12 million or whatever? We can all go take a tour and watch them printing money. We can feel the money in our own pockets, money which obviously came from someplace, printed by someone. The accuracy of the amount claimed by the BEP is a triviality.

    But you brought up trust. Here's the thing about trust: trust is something that has to be earned in relation to the import of the subject of that trust. I don't give a hoot about the BEP's claims to daily currency printing, so if they're lying it's really no skin off my nose. Again: who cares?

    But a god? That's important.

    Several times I've been told that the evidence for the existence of Jesus is better than the evidence for the existence of Alexander the Great. My response was (perhaps predictably), "so what?" My "belief" in Alexander the Great doesn't buy me an afterlife in Heaven. My failure to believe in Alexander has no consequences whatsoever, and so if it is true that there's less evidence for Alexander than for Jesus, my first conclusion is going to be that Alexander is a myth, too (because the evidence for Jesus ain't all that hot).

    That argument is obviously supposed to make me conclude the other way, but backfires because I've got no reason at all to trust in Alexander the Great.

    So who do I trust? On the one side we've got scientists (methodological empiricists, not philosophical empiricists, but they'll have to do) who should disagree with each other all the time in competition for grant money, scientific fame and the aforementioned Nobel Prizes. But they fail to disagee with each other about the existence of Neptune. They've got everything to gain through disagreement, but instead unanimously look at me funny if I ask if Neptune really exists.

    And then on the other hand, there are theists who've got everything to gain through a massive consensus agreement on the nature of god(s) (because of increased power, social control, tithing, etc.), yet who fail to agree to such a large extent that there are over 1,500 Christian churches with doctrinal disagreements in the United States of America alone, and over 40,000 different identifiable religous sects throughout recorded history. If any religious epistemology were a reliable grantor of "truth," this situation should never have come about.

    So who should one trust? The people with motives to disagree but who do not, or the people with motives to agree but who cannot?

    On that basis, I reject your premise that there exists a "trustworthy mystic." I even reject the premise that there exists a "trustworthy scientist" who has worked in solitude for ten years.

    Trust is given as appropriate for the subject at hand. If the scientist presents a ground-shaking new theory, he's not trustworthy until a huge herd of his competitors all say, "after careful examination and despite my initial doubt, I cannot disagree with his conclusions."

    I've got the same standard of trust for the mystics - a standard that won't be met until the preisthood of worldwide religions sees about a million-to-one ratio between "mainstream religion" and "extremist cult." And since Hinduism, Islam and Christianty are right now at about a 2:3:4.5 ratio (or thereabouts), that standard has a long way to go to be met.

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  33. "How do they read, see and interpret this data? Through their senses, thus leading back to the subjective sensory experience problem."

    Not at all.

    First, let's be clear about something here. You can keep inventing pathological examples, and at some point I'm sure I would have to concede that, yes indeed, in this particular case the subjective interpretations would lead to different ideas or conclusions. But that's not the real issue here; in fact, this happens all the time in the "softer" (e.g. social) sciences, and in avenues of natural science that are data starved, and where scientists are speculating, brain storming and extrapolating, bouncing ideas off each other, etc.

    There are certainly spectacular examples of science gone wrong due to subjective interpretations - Percival Lowell's "canals on Mars" is the famous example - he bloody well saw them through the telescope, he did! Drew maps of them and all. Problem is, they weren't actually there. So what did he see?

    He probably saw what I saw when I stuck my eye into the old Lick Observatory refractor a few years ago, when Mars was making a close approach to Earth. A blurry pale reddish disk, shimmering and jumping about due to atmospheric turbulence, some darker spots and some brighter spots, and that's about it. We know that the diffraction limited resolution of these early telescopes is way too low to even have a theoretical possibility of resolving things like artificial canals - unless they are of the scope of Valles Marineris, cleaving the planet in two. So Lowell saw what he wanted to see, and his brain complied.

    But this kind of case-by-case argumentation that you have started on will get you nowhere. The issue that you need to raise is whether subjectivity in science is both 1) systematic, and 2) pervasive enough that subjective biases pose a fundamental threat to the whole scientific enterprise and the investigation of nature. Both conditions are necessary for that to happen: if it isn't pervasive then it would pose no threat, and if it isn't systematic then science would become impossible because there would never be consensus about anything (which is self-evidently false, so this combination is already ruled out).

    So before demolishing your color blind astronomer example I want to point out that singular examples such as these are not sufficient to prove a general point. If you really want to demonstrate something substantial, then you have to proceed from the specific to the general, that is, provide a theory or observational data which shows that the conditions (1) and (2) might be fulfilled.

    Now to your color blind astronomer. Well you're right they don't see colors the same way, but would they read the text "2.12 microns" the same way? Or how about "550 nanometers"? Even if they see the color of the text on the computer screen differently, the semantic information conveyed to both of them ought to be the same (I suppose next you're going to introduce the illiterate color blind astronomer). This was the general point that I was trying to get across before: most observational data collected by scientific instruments is to a large extent reduced to formats that greatly limit the potential for subjective biases. (Of course, especially in astronomy there will always be interpretational disputes: is that a dwarf galaxy or a globular cluster?)

    Lastly, just to connect with reality for a moment, almost all raw astronomical imaging is monochromatic because CCD cameras are monochromatic. Astronomical images are usually taken with band-limited color filters (I mentioned two common ones already: 550 nm is the visible band, and 2.2 microns is a common near-infrared band called K-band), and the images are artificially color coded in the computer afterward (even your personal digital camera works this way: it has a red-green-blue matrix of color filters covering the CCD pixels and uses an interpolation algorithm to reconstruct full color information for each pixel). When you see a colored astronomical image from a professional observatory it is either a composite of multiple images taken in different wavelength bands, or a monochromatic image that has been artificially colored by just applying a color map that looks nice.

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  34. Good New Morning Adonais,

    ”All people believe a vast amount of things, but they believe it in different ways. Already you are ignoring the fact that planet belief and God belief are not in the same category. Planets can be detected by objective methods.”

    This is false. Planets can be detected by objective methods for some people with the requisite senses required to do so. So again, how could the existence of Neptune—which is currently empirically verifiable only through sight—by empirically proven to exist to a blind person. It could not. Its existence, to the blind person, would be immaterial and empirically uncertain as the existence of God and would either have to be taken on the opinion of others (which leaves open personal testimony as valid evidence for God) or discarded as a delusion till other senses can verify its existence.


    “…and if you say that they can not be detected by objective methods, then they are not in the same category as planets.”

    But you see, for the blind atheist, the existence of Neptune is as immaterial and objectively/empirically undetectable as God is for the seeing atheist. So again, the blind atheist is empirically correct in stating that those who believe in Neptune are delusional.


    ”…as anyone so able and inclined can verify it for themselves by the aid of modern technology.”

    Except for blind people, which was the whole point.


    “In the case of God, such independent verification appears to be denied to atheists, making them perfectly rational in their belief that "God" is an imaginary concept concocted by theistic religions. To believe in the propositional correctness of the existence of God remains irrational, but I don't know why you're trying so hard to rationalize it; this is just how religions are.”

    Thank you for supporting my argument, for let me rephrase your paragraph: In the case of Neptune, such independent verification appears to be denied to blind atheists (as currently, they can never empirically verify its existence), making them perfectly rational in their belief that “Neptune” (and the Moon, Mars, other galaxies, etc.) is an imaginary concept concocted by crazy “seeing” people. To believe in the propositional correctness of the existence of Neptune remains irrational.


    ”…you now you appear to be equivocating between establishing truth in fundamental science and the mundane proximate truths that we happily employ in everyday life. True enough: if we established truth in our lives by the same principles as in particle physics, our lives would indeed become absurd. But nobody is arguing that we should do that.”

    Indeed I am arguing this and this is one of the major points. Why are you so willing to accept proximate, non-empirical, faith-based (meaning that you believe something that someone tells you) truths in everyday life when it suits your sensibilities but not in other aspects. If you believe that empirical evidence is the only means for truth, then this must be taken to its finality, which means that you should believe no proposition unless empirical evidence is presented. If, however, you accept other methods to reach truth, then why do so only in certain cases that you permit and what is your criteria for choosing when empirical evidence is needed and when it is not?


    “After all I can see Neptune, while a blind person can't, so if they claim Neptune does not exist even after what they have heard about it, I would be fully rational in concluding that there's something funny going on inside their head.”

    That’s right, but empirically, they would also be correct and rational in concluding that there’s something funny going on inside your head. By the way, hearing about something from other people is not empirical proof for it and if the blind person should believe in the existence of Neptune (which to him is as immaterial as God) based on someone else’s testimony, why the double-standard for God’s existence?


    ”Now, the only situation I can think of wherein such a pathological argument (which you appear to be fond of) could possibly be of interest, would be if there were indeed people with extra senses in addition to the standard human senses. Is this what you are claiming, that theists have ESP that allows them to sense God?”

    Let me make this clear. Many mystics claim to see, hear or touch God. This is not an extra sense.


    ”I can not empirically prove that he is wrong…”

    Indeed you cannot.


    “If he still claims to see God, then the most likely candidate for that experience is the brain, which has been known to do a lot of funny things.”

    Interesting, so now the brain and the senses that feed it are unreliable. So why are you sure that they are reliable in “non-God” experiences but not in “God” experiences.



    ”What scientific knowledge (in the sense of hypotheses well supported by evidence) do you think you could not verify for yourself?”

    Think about this for a moment. I could not personally (rather than rely on the trustworthiness of other scientists) confirm the vast majority of scientific knowledge, because to properly do so, I would need to educate myself in all scientific fields. Ten lifetimes would not suffice to do so. Now, while I could, for example, pick one field, study it and personally verify its finding, this in no way gives me empirically certainty of the truth of the dozens of other scientific fields. And so, I must, like all of us do, take science on “faith”.


    ”What mystic "knowledge" of another individual do you think you could verify for yourself?”

    Easy. Much like verifying a scientific hypothesis, the mystic uses certain techniques and training for a certain period of time to achieve results. Thus, I could ask the mystic to tell me his methods and duration of study and then follow them to see if I have the same experience. If not, hypothesis rejected and if so, then confirmed.


    ”Of course, and I hope that you will take your own advice and apply it not just to science and scientists but to religions and theists, and in particular to the Judeo-Christian doctrines, myths and beliefs that you espouse, and their makers.”

    Certainly, but empirically speaking, the best evidence for belief is personal experience and thus, I am fully rational in the belief that I hold.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  35. Good Day Modus,

    Just a quick point and I do not mean to single you out, but your comments raise an interesting issue. Atheists often claim to be highly rational, reasoned individuals. Yet you said:

    "Are you an atheist?"
    ”Yes. I'm also a sometimes agnostic and occasional deist.”
    ” I'll stick (for the most part) with the null hypothesis; atheism.”

    How does one rationally stick “for the most part” with atheism, but occasionally—for ‘rational’ reasons—delves into agnosticism and deism. Does new evidence rationally convince you for a few days of deism and then further evidence pushes you back to atheism? I mean this is entirely possible, but it seems to smack of emotionality, rather than rationalism. And this is not a problem, if admitted, but I find so many atheists try to claim that emotion forms no part of their decision to be an atheist and yet such a claim is often disingenuous. Best be honest and stick to agnosticism.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  36. Hello Again Adonais,

    "How do they read, see and interpret this data? Through their senses, thus leading back to the subjective sensory experience problem."
    ”Not at all.”

    Actually, this fact is undisputable. Please show me a scientist who receives information directly into his brain without evolving the senses. Now, you may claim that the way in which information is presented can drastically reduce its subjectivity and this is true, but this says nothing about the reliability of the subjective senses of the scientist receiving that information. These are two different things.


    ”First, let's be clear about something here. You can keep inventing pathological examples, and at some point I'm sure I would have to concede that, yes indeed, in this particular case the subjective interpretations would lead to different ideas or conclusions.”

    Actually, in all cases and at all times, information is received through subjective interpretation. It just happens that those subjective interpretations tend to possess a high degree of commonality.

    “But this kind of case-by-case argumentation that you have started on will get you nowhere. The issue that you need to raise is whether subjectivity in science is both 1) systematic, and 2) pervasive enough that subjective biases pose a fundamental threat to the whole scientific enterprise and the investigation of nature. Both conditions are necessary for that to happen: if it isn't pervasive then it would pose no threat, and if it isn't systematic then science would become impossible because there would never be consensus about anything (which is self-evidently false, so this combination is already ruled out).”

    First, subjectivity is absolutely systematic in science (as in all things), however, you are correct that it is not pervasive.


    ”I want to point out that singular examples such as these are not sufficient to prove a general point. If you really want to demonstrate something substantial, then you have to proceed from the specific to the general…”

    Indeed, I provided a specific example to reach a general point—see last paragraph.


    “This was the general point that I was trying to get across before: most observational data collected by scientific instruments is to a large extent reduced to formats that greatly limit the potential for subjective biases.”

    I agree completely, but greatly reducing subjectivity does not eliminate it, which means it is still there, no matter no subtle it is.


    “So before demolishing your color blind astronomer example…”

    You did no such thing, because you admitted that the example is valid as is the subjectivity of the findings.

    So the final point. The Neptune Delusion (and the case of the color blind astronomer) forces the atheist into a type of dilemma. If the atheist claims that personal empirical evidence is the only manner by which truth can be known, then such an atheist must, by necessity and in order to remain rational in his initial assertion, maintain a radical skepticism concerning all personally-unverified knowledge. If, however, the atheist is willing to have ‘faith/trust’ in the testimony of others (such as scientists) concerning truth and claim that such a faith is a legitimate method of knowledge, then by necessity, the atheist must admit that the testimony of others (such as mystics) concerning God is also a legitimate method of knowledge. Now, the atheist may not give the testimony of mystics, etc. the same weight as scientists and that is his prerogative, but he cannot deny that others may find the claims legitimate, nor can he rationally deny that they cannot be counted as knowledge, for he is doing the exact same thing, but only in different fields.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  37. Hello Again Dave,

    “As I suspected, from your answers to my questions, you are conflating philosophical empiricism with scientific empiricism, but failing to explicitly take the next logical step in that line of thinking and declare that all modern empiricists (because they can gather evidence that demonstrates that their senses are unreliable) should be solipsists, doubting everything that doesn't originate within their own minds.”

    Actually, this is precisely what I am pointing out.


    ”It's actually pretty easy to work one's way out of the dank solipsistic pit, and so settle upon the idea that an objective reality exists, without the need to inject faith in any form along the way.”

    I would love to see this done without resorting to ‘faith’ of some type—such as faith in a starting premise like “our senses are reliable”.


    “And once one agrees to the existence of an objective reality, then the question of which sense(s) detect Neptune or the Sun or even the Earth itself is moot.”

    But do I have to agree that objective reality exists? Why? And what if I do not? Can you unequivocally prove to me that it does?


    ”Because telescopes aren't sight. Using your definition of "empirical," the empirical verification of Neptune is simply impossible by human beings.”

    Indeed. And it is not my definition, but the dictionaries.


    ”Of course, the worst missing part of your argument is the fact that an all-powerful being could inject visions of a non-existent Neptune into every telescope. Adding the "god hypothesis" simply makes all viewpoints, empirical or not, equally suspect. With the possibility of a deity in the mix, the steps I took towards concluding that there is an objective reality in the first place are null and void.”

    Actually, an argument is often made that only the theistic worldview is reliable to determine objective reality, because a benevolent God would not purposely deceive his creations and thus, his creations can trust their God given senses.


    “You see, it is theism which should lead to solipsism, not atheism.”

    Actually, ask yourself this: if my senses evolved naturally simply in order to ensure my survival for evolution, why should I trust them concerning scientific truths. They were not designed for that at all and might be horribly faulty in that enterprise. Thus, I have no means of knowing if I should trust them. So atheism is even worse at leading to solipsism.


    “Several times I've been told that the evidence for the existence of Jesus is better than the evidence for the existence of Alexander the Great. My response was (perhaps predictably), "so what?" My "belief" in Alexander the Great doesn't buy me an afterlife in Heaven. My failure to believe in Alexander has no consequences whatsoever, and so if it is true that there's less evidence for Alexander than for Jesus, my first conclusion is going to be that Alexander is a myth, too (because the evidence for Jesus ain't all that hot). That argument is obviously supposed to make me conclude the other way, but backfires because I've got no reason at all to trust in Alexander the Great.”

    Interesting, but I have a few questions. How do you rationally and objectively determine that you have enough ‘trust’ to believe in something? What is the rational and objective dividing line between trust and not trust? Is there a rational dividing line? If not, are you actually being rational or just subjective determining a line of trust and not trust depending on your feelings? By your method, should you ever trust anything?


    ”So who do I trust? On the one side we've got scientists (methodological empiricists, not philosophical empiricists, but they'll have to do) who should disagree with each other all the time in competition for grant money, scientific fame and the aforementioned Nobel Prizes. But they fail to disagee with each other about the existence of Neptune. They've got everything to gain through disagreement, but instead unanimously look at me funny if I ask if Neptune really exists.”

    This presupposes that scientists are not subject to human emotionality and that agreement brings no benefits between them, but it does. Scientists, like all other, enjoy supporting their own worldviews with their interpretation of evidence. And a further point, for every theory, there are scientists that disagree, so how many need to disagree before they are correct? How do you rationally determine that?


    ”Trust is given as appropriate for the subject at hand. If the scientist presents a ground-shaking new theory, he's not trustworthy until a huge herd of his competitors all say, "after careful examination and despite my initial doubt, I cannot disagree with his conclusions."”

    OK, please rationally and objectively define a “huge herd”. Does that mean five other scientists? Fifty? Five hundred? What is your rational and empirical basis for “huge herd”? What if one scientist disagrees? Your stance, which seems to be rational, is actually based on a great deal of subjectivity and emotion. I mean…”huge herd”…really…that is the way you rationally determine things?

    So, what if we determined that while mystical experiences differ in specifics, just like many scientists disagree about the specifics of a certain theory but agree about the core, all mystics share core elements. So while mystics may define the specifics as Jesus or Allah, they all feel or see a presence that is all-powerful, merciful, caring, whatever. Now, a ‘huge-herd’ of mystics come to you and say: “While we have everything to gain by trying to claim that our religion is correct, we cannot show this, but we can agree on these core facets of our mystical experiences.” Would you believe them? If not, why?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

    ReplyDelete
  38. Good Morning Reynold,

    “What I find interesting is that on your own blog the tagline says: Original Articles on Christianity, Atheism and Other Socio-Religious Subjects that Demand Rigorous Debate, Discussion and Dissection. Need I remind you of what it says on your own blog page again?? If I was mistaken that you were a christian, or talking about the xian god, I daresay that after reading Original Articles on Christianity, Atheism and Other Socio-Religious Subjects that Demand Rigorous Debate, Discussion and Dissection on your blog's page, it was a pretty safe assumption.”

    First off, let me just say that I appreciate that you actually visited my blog. It is greatly appreciated as I have only a few things posted. Second, let me make it clear that I do subscribe to the Christian faith, so your assumption is correct. However, what is interesting is what your assumption shows. While certain evidence clearly exists from my blog and posts that I was a Christian, no piece of evidence was empirically definitive. From my tag line, I could have been a Christian or an atheist or someone who was simply interested in socio-religious topics. But you took inconclusive and uncertain empirical evidence and made a decision based one it that happened to be the correct one. Why can this not be the case for God? Why can I not take the various arguments and evidences for God, even if they are inconclusive, and hold a rational position from there? Just something interesting to think about.


    “But, they get enough from the experience to be able to tell that it's the christian god, do they not? Even if they don't completely understand their god, they know enough to be able to tell what their god is like so as to be able to compare him to the Muslim god.”

    Not necessarily, many mystics, after their experiences, find word descriptions are God wholly inadequate and they find that religious doctrine is wholly inadequate as well.


    ”So then you're proved my point then that your reasoning can be taken by any theist and used as evidence of their god.”

    Not necessarily (see above). In addition, perhaps all religions are wrong in some sense.


    ”You've forgotten something. The evidence for the Sun itself, remember? You know, the heat in daytime and the coolness of night? One doesn't need sight to verify that.”

    OK, I will concede the Sun issue. Now, please explain to me how you would empirical prove to a blind person the existence of the moon, Neptune, other galaxies, etc.


    ”Besides, unlike with any "god" there ARE people who have seen the sun, moon, etc.”

    Interesting, I actually know many people who have claimed to have seen God, “miracles” etc. So I guess if there ARE people who have seen God or spoken to Him, I should take them seriously?


    “When the preponderence of evidence starts to pile up, maybe it's not a delusion?”

    If you are willing to admit this, then excellent. All I need to do is pile all the arguments fro God’s existence together, in addition to giving you the testimony of hundreds of mystics and I can start to pile up a preponderance of evidence. So maybe God is not a delusion after all.


    ”That was my point. What extra "sense" does the theist have that lets them "sense" any "god"? “

    None. Many mystics actually see God or hear Him or feel Him on their skin. They use the same senses as you or I.


    ”Maybe I should have said "corroborative" evidence, like multiple eyewitnesses, pictures, predictions or verified tests? If all you've got to go on is the word of one person with no corroborating evidence, that sometimes isn't even enough in a court of law.”

    Sorry to restate this, but… if you are willing to admit this, then excellent. All I need to do is pile all the arguments fro God’s existence together, in addition to giving you the testimony of hundreds of mystics and I can start to pile up a preponderance of evidence. So maybe God is not a delusion after all and can be proven in a court of law. As an interesting aside, this idea of a court setting was once done concerning the resurrection of Jesus between Christian G. Habermas and atheist A. Flew. After all the arguments were presented, the nine judge panel that the historical case for the actual resurrection of Jesus was stronger than the atheist arguments. Interesting.


    ”So then, which of the same senses that scientists use to gain empirical evidence is used to experience "god"? Can you see him, hear her, touch them, smell it?”

    Quite simply, yes. That is the claim of many people.


    ”Besides, you're leaving a few things out of the scientific view: Science experiments are logged, analyzed, and can be repeated by others. Tests are made, predictions are either verified or thrown out.”

    Absolutely. And the same mystical traditions are passed down and practiced by the same groups, with many similar results being achieved. Does this now make them valid as proof?


    ”No, you're leaving out the actual testimony of those who have seen Neptune…”

    So you are admitting that testimony evidence is valid. Thus again, why not the testimony of a trustworthy mystic concerning God?


    ”…and the fact that it's existence was originally predicted because of observed oddities in the orbits of other planets.”

    So now you are saying that empirical evidence is not required to prove something, but mathematical evidence will suffice. If you admit this, then you must admit the metaphysical arguments for God’s existence as valid.


    ”What predictions and tests have been done to prove the existence of your "god"?”

    Empirically speaking, all mystical “tests” and “predictions” are valid. If the mystic says that: if I meditate and pray diligently for ten years, God will reveal Himself to me and then tests this prediction and finds it to be true, the mystic is empirically correct to believe in God. You may not accept this evidence, but it has no bearing on the mystic’s empirical proof.


    “You've done both. And yes, your analogy still fails. Why? In real life, there are sighted people who have seen Neptune, and can explain the history of it's discovery etc.”

    Again, if you are willing to admit testimony evidence as valid, then excellent, but do not use a double-standard and discount it when the issue is the divine.


    ”How many theists have "seen god"?”

    Many, so am I know justified in believing them?


    ”Besides, can this "sensory experience" be repeated like, say, the scientific experiements we were referring to earlier? How can you tell that the person is not just making things up?”

    Potentially, if you are willing to invest the time and effort to seek a mystical experience. Much like you would have to invest time and effort in understanding a scientific field before you could personally and empirically verify its claims.


    ”And I shot that point down by pointing out a weakness of the alternate "explanation" you gave for the heat being generated by an "earthly atmosphere". How is defeating your explanation getting "sidetracked"? I've just shown how your reasoning can be proven wrong.”

    Except that I conceited the Sun issue. But please, do tell how you would empirically prove (no testimony from others) to a blind person the exist of the Moon, Mars or other galaxies?


    ”…stuff like people corroborating each other's testimony, etc...”
    So hundreds of thousands of mystics throughout history does not count as corroborating testimony. Wow, you have some high standards and good for you, just make sure to apply them to all empirical claims, not just the ones you personally disagree with.

    ”I'm not the one whose views forces him to accept at face value any story that anyone could make up without any evidence...”
    Empirically speaking, if I have a personal experience of the divine, that counts for more evidence then the testimony of anyone else.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

    ReplyDelete
  39. RD Miksa "Atheists often claim to be highly rational, reasoned individuals."
    Not me. My only claim is that I try.

    "How does one rationally stick “for the most part” with atheism, but occasionally—for ‘rational’ reasons—delves into agnosticism and deism."
    Atheism most of the time because I don't see an interventionalist God of any kind (they must be avoiding me), and those that are proffered are anecdotal and frequently incompatible (even when among "the same" god).
    Agnosticism sometimes because I am quite aware that I'm an idiot, and that the smartest people aren't that much better.
    Deism because of a personal experience (remember earlier when I mentioned the power of the Argument from Personal Experience?).

    "Does new evidence rationally convince you for a few days of deism and then further evidence pushes you back to atheism?"
    Cross our "rationally" and put in "emotionally".

    "Best be honest and stick to agnosticism."
    I'm agnostic on the possibility of a suitably vague concept of god.

    The more specific ones can be tested, even if indirectly, as they're supposed to act in the real world. When tested, they consistently show between placebo and nothing. When shown as such, the goalposts are moved by some, the test is denied by others, and apologetics kick in to figure out why the god in question doesn't act like the god in question says the god in question acts.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hello Again Modus,

    Good to hear from you. I appreciate both your honesty and self-awareness.

    “Atheism most of the time because I don't see an interventionalist God of any kind (they must be avoiding me), and those that are proffered are anecdotal and frequently incompatible (even when among "the same" god).”

    But that is not atheism, but deism. So are you really a deist most of the time?


    “Agnosticism sometimes because I am quite aware that I'm an idiot, and that the smartest people aren't that much better.”

    I could not agree with this more.


    “Deism because of a personal experience (remember earlier when I mentioned the power of the Argument from Personal Experience?).”

    But deism by definition precludes a personal experience of God. So are you ‘spiritual’ but not religious?


    “Cross our "rationally" and put in "emotionally".”

    Just like most human beings, even if they will not admit it.


    “The more specific ones can be tested, even if indirectly, as they're supposed to act in the real world. When tested, they consistently show between placebo and nothing. When shown as such, the goalposts are moved by some, the test is denied by others, and apologetics kick in to figure out why the god in question doesn't act like the god in question says the god in question acts.”

    What sorts of tests are you speaking of?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

    ReplyDelete
  41. RD Miksa "But that is not atheism, but deism. So are you really a deist most of the time?"
    A non-interacting god is functionally identical to no god at all. That makes atheism and deism functionally the same, if not spiritually.

    "I could not agree with this more."
    I've always found it remarkable just how many people agree that I'm an idiot. There's a pattern there that I can't ignore.

    "But deism by definition precludes a personal experience of God."
    It was more an experience...a glimmer...a peek...at the interconnectedness of all things. I posted a recollection of the event here somewhere, but I can't recall where it was, and the search function is no help at all (even a googling of this site with the keyword "hypnopompic" doesn't find it).

    "So are you ‘spiritual’ but not religious?"
    Yes, I guess. Disbelief in things that aren't so doesn't preclude spirituality. That we are all starstuff doesn't make it any less awe inspiring.

    "Just like most human beings, even if they will not admit it."
    Rational thought isn't ingrained, it's learned. As such, it's easy to fall into logical fallacies (and it's easier to see them in others than it is in oneself). Confusing correlation with causation is common, too ("I went to Lourdes and drank the water. My cancer subsided. Ergo..."). Others, no doubt, phrase it better than I can.

    "What sorts of tests are you speaking of?"
    Double-blind testing of the effects of prayer on the sick, for one.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hey Modus,

    “A non-interacting god is functionally identical to no god at all. That makes atheism and deism functionally the same, if not spiritually.”

    They are certainly functionally the same, but are not so philosophically or in a comments board such as this one, because if you are already convinced of deism, then I do not need to spend time arguing that aspect of the problem. So, I am asking honestly, do you describe yourself philosophically as a deist or an atheist?


    “I've always found it remarkable just how many people agree that I'm an idiot. There's a pattern there that I can't ignore.”

    My apologies for the misunderstanding. I meant that I agreed with your statement that when compared to the total sum of available knowledge, are people are idiots…not you personally.


    “It was more an experience...a glimmer...a peek...at the interconnectedness of all things.”

    Would you say that you experienced God or the supernatural? If so, this makes your atheism/deism a quite peculiar stance to hold.


    “Yes, I guess. Disbelief in things that aren't so doesn't preclude spirituality. That we are all starstuff doesn't make it any less awe inspiring.”

    I have always found these statements quite interesting. If all I am is star matter, then I would be highly depressed, not in awe at all, in addition to changing my entire attitude towards things. If all I am is matter, why should I be in awe of a world filled with disease, disasters, etc. In fact, I hate it and would have rational grounds to commit suicide the moment my general pain exceeds my pleasure.


    “Confusing correlation with causation is common, too ("I went to Lourdes and drank the water. My cancer subsided. Ergo...").”

    You do know, of course, that this very statement undermines the very validity of science.


    "What sorts of tests are you speaking of?"
    Double-blind testing of the effects of prayer on the sick, for one.

    I will address this issue shortly.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

    ReplyDelete
  43. RD Miksa -

    I stopped reading your reply when I reached this:

    "Let me make this clear. Many mystics claim to see, hear or touch God. This is not an extra sense. "

    But your entire argument is based on an analogy with people deprived of sensory perception, and that this necessarily results in their beliefs being shifted from the dimension of propositional correctness to the dimension of trust. If you then say that, when it comes to God experience, there really is no difference in sensory perception involved, then the analogy has nothing to do with the conclusion.

    To argue by analogy is to invoke a similarity between situations. If, after describing your analogy, you then claim that your argument is not invoking the element that constitutes the actual similarity (a difference in sensory perception), then the analogy is completely worthless to your argument. If your argument relied entirely on this analogy, you are left with no argument at all.

    You have created a humongous red herring. I see no reason to carry on this discussion any further.

    ReplyDelete
  44. RD Miksa wrote:
    "Actually, this is precisely what I am pointing out."

    Oh, good. Thanks for admitting to doing nothing more than attacking a well-worn strawman. After all, if you're going to "logically" conclude that empiricists must be solipsists, you would need to ensure that your logic is both valid and sound. It isn't.

    "I would love to see this done without resorting to ‘faith’ of some type—such as faith in a starting premise like “our senses are reliable”."

    Solipsism is a paper sack of a philosophical trap, I'm sad to see that you can't punch your way out of it. To start with, would you agree that "I exist" is not a statement of faith?

    "But do I have to agree that objective reality exists? Why? And what if I do not? Can you unequivocally prove to me that it does?"

    I don't need to prove that it does, only that its absence would mean that your argument (or any argument) is pointless. If an objective reality doesn't exist, then for all I know, you don't exist, and/or the Earth doesn't exist, and/or [insert object here] doesn't exist, and so arguing about empiricists and faith when those things may not even exist is rather moronic, don't you think?

    "And it is not my definition, but the dictionaries."

    No, you're employing the definition of philosophical empiricism when claiming that empiricism is all about direct, personal sensing of phenomena, and ignoring the fact that science employs only methodological empiricism. Conflating the two types of empiricism is at the heart of your alleged logic.

    If you could name even a single modern-day philosophical empiricist (aside from a Hunter S. Thompson joke), I would be impressed.

    "Actually, an argument is often made that only the theistic worldview is reliable to determine objective reality, because a benevolent God would not purposely deceive his creations and thus, his creations can trust their God given senses."

    The only theistic worldviews that I'm aware of which depend upon a single benevolent creator god are the Abrahamaic religions, and in them God created Satan, and so indeed He intended for His creations to be purposefully deceived. In those religions, God created evil, He created lies and He created Satan knowing full well what Satan would be doing (Satan never had free will).

    "Actually, ask yourself this: if my senses evolved naturally simply in order to ensure my survival for evolution, why should I trust them concerning scientific truths. They were not designed for that at all and might be horribly faulty in that enterprise. Thus, I have no means of knowing if I should trust them. So atheism is even worse at leading to solipsism."

    If it were true that science proceeds based upon philosophical empiricism, you would have a point. But it does not, so you do not.

    Furthermore, you have now sadly conflated science with atheism, thereby implying that theists cannot be scientists. This is, of course, far from true.

    "Interesting, but I have a few questions. How do you rationally and objectively determine that you have enough ‘trust’ to believe in something? What is the rational and objective dividing line between trust and not trust? Is there a rational dividing line? If not, are you actually being rational or just subjective determining a line of trust and not trust depending on your feelings? By your method, should you ever trust anything?"

    More loaded questions. Subjectivity is not opposed to rationality. Trust and distrust are necessarily subjective, but can still have a rational basis. If a person I've lent money to never paid me back, I've got a perfectly rational reason to not trust him with future loans.

    "This presupposes that scientists are not subject to human emotionality and that agreement brings no benefits between them, but it does."

    No, you want it to presuppose all that, and so you say that it does, without asking. You're fabricating a position for me to take, instead of allowing me to argue my own positions, because your strawmen are easier to demolish.

    The fact is that conclusions are reached for a large mix of subjective and objective reasons, some good, some bad. The real question is whether the rational reasons for reaching some conclusion outweigh the irrational. The entire practice of science is based (in part) upon the idea that through evidence and argument, we (the whole of humanity) can filter the rational out of the great sea of irrationality.

    "Scientists, like all other, enjoy supporting their own worldviews with their interpretation of evidence."

    But doing so brings little actual reward, and disagreement leads to stronger theories. The motives for disagreement far outweigh the motives for agreement among scientists.

    "And a further point, for every theory, there are scientists that disagree, so how many need to disagree before they are correct? How do you rationally determine that?"

    Find me a scientist who argues that Neptune does not exist.

    "OK, please rationally and objectively define a “huge herd”. Does that mean five other scientists? Fifty? Five hundred? What is your rational and empirical basis for “huge herd”? What if one scientist disagrees? Your stance, which seems to be rational, is actually based on a great deal of subjectivity and emotion. I mean…”huge herd”…really…that is the way you rationally determine things?"

    Oh, good grief. Way to miss the point.

    "So, what if we determined that while mystical experiences differ in specifics, just like many scientists disagree about the specifics of a certain theory but agree about the core, all mystics share core elements. So while mystics may define the specifics as Jesus or Allah, they all feel or see a presence that is all-powerful, merciful, caring, whatever. Now, a ‘huge-herd’ of mystics come to you and say: “While we have everything to gain by trying to claim that our religion is correct, we cannot show this, but we can agree on these core facets of our mystical experiences.” Would you believe them? If not, why?"

    Actually, I wouldn't care. Described that way, the "core facets" are trivialities which aren't important, like the precise amount of money printed by the BEP every day. Jesus is important because if He exists and I don't have faith, then I'm doomed to eternal punishment (so much for omni-benevolence, but that's another discussion).

    But "a presence that is all-powerful, merciful, caring, whatever," who cares? Does this information mean anything to me? Can I say that because there is "a presence that is all-powerful, merciful, caring, whatever" that I should live my life in a particular way, or avoid certain activities? No.

    Every scientific conclusion leads naturally to more possible research questions. That there is "a presence that is all-powerful, merciful, caring, whatever" leads naturally nowhere, and in fact invalidates our ability to do science.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Apparently the author does not understand the meaning of the words "empirical" or "atheist".

    Empirical evidence by definition
    is vastly different than anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence is not generally capable of being confirmed as reliable, while empirical evidence can be.

    This is the same flawed reasoning that makes homeopathic medicine so popular.

    An atheist does not generally rule out the possibility of God or gods (though some do), he simply lacks belief in the gods in the same way people today lack belief in Amen Ra or Phaedra.

    It is perfectly reasonable for someone to believe in Neptune because its existence can be verified empirically, unlike a personal experience when someone claims that God intervened in a time of trouble-- the conclusion of such a claim can be false or misleading.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Parts where he quotes me are in bold parts where I'm just quoting him to respond to him are in italics

    RD Miksa said...

    Good Morning Reynold,

    “What I find interesting is that on your own blog the tagline says: Original Articles on Christianity, Atheism and Other Socio-Religious Subjects that Demand Rigorous Debate, Discussion and Dissection. Need I remind you of what it says on your own blog page again?? If I was mistaken that you were a christian, or talking about the xian god, I daresay that after reading Original Articles on Christianity, Atheism and Other Socio-Religious Subjects that Demand Rigorous Debate, Discussion and Dissection on your blog's page, it was a pretty safe assumption.”


    First off, let me just say that I appreciate that you actually visited my blog. It is greatly appreciated as I have only a few things posted. Second, let me make it clear that I do subscribe to the Christian faith, so your assumption is correct. However, what is interesting is what your assumption shows.
    So what? I based my assumption on the evidence of what you said on your own blog, and I was right.

    While certain evidence clearly exists from my blog and posts that I was a Christian, no piece of evidence was empirically definitive.
    That's your opinion: It seems strange that a non-xian theist would single out christianity like that.

    That, and the fact that the christians here invited you onto this blog. In earlier incarnations it was more apparent that the mods were xian.

    From my tag line, I could have been a Christian or an atheist or someone who was simply interested in socio-religious topics. But you took inconclusive and uncertain empirical evidence and made a decision based one it that happened to be the correct one.
    No, I also noted the fact that you were invited to write on this blog.

    Why can this not be the case for God? Why can I not take the various arguments and evidences for God, even if they are inconclusive, and hold a rational position from there?
    Where did I say that you couldn't? I just pointed out that due to

    1)the tagline on your blog

    2)the fact that you were invited to write on this blog

    that you most likely were a christian.

    Just something interesting to think about.


    Not necessarily, many mystics, after their experiences, find word descriptions are God wholly inadequate and they find that religious doctrine is wholly inadequate as well.
    And that's proof of a god's existence how? Wouldn't a particular theistic god want to make sure that the experience led to Him, or Her?


    ”So then you're proved my point then that your reasoning can be taken by any theist and used as evidence of their god.”
    Not necessarily (see above). In addition, perhaps all religions are wrong in some sense.
    And you know this, how, exactly? Besides, since you're admitted that you're a xian, don't you have the bible to clarify things? Or are you saying that even the bible is wrong in some places? (after all, that's where we get the information about your religion from).


    ”You've forgotten something. The evidence for the Sun itself, remember? You know, the heat in daytime and the coolness of night? One doesn't need sight to verify that.”
    OK, I will concede the Sun issue. Now, please explain to me how you would empirical prove to a blind person the existence of the moon, Neptune, other galaxies, etc.
    The overwhelming testimony of everyone who has sight? Remember, other people could easily prove that they can see, just by getting around easier than the blind person can. Since most people have sight, their testimony would mean something. That, and the satellite images they sent up.




    ”Besides, unlike with any "god" there ARE people who have seen the sun, moon, etc.”
    Interesting, I actually know many people who have claimed to have seen God,
    Doesn't that corroborate the bible? Isn't god/jesus in heaven right now, and not on earth? It's only supposed to be the "holy spirit" until he comes back, isn't it?

    “miracles” etc. So I guess if there ARE people who have seen God or spoken to Him, I should take them seriously?
    If all you've got is the word of a few poeple, not really.
    -First it's only a few people as opposed to pretty much every sighted person (for the Neptune story)

    -Second Their views would all have to corroborate each other and not contradict each other. Like they would for the Neptune sighting.

    -Third Their stories or sightings would have to be repeatable like they would for the Neptune sightings, etc.

    -Fourth They'd have to corroborate the account of god that's given by whatever holy book the religion you're arguing for gives.


    “When the preponderence of evidence starts to pile up, maybe it's not a delusion?”
    If you are willing to admit this, then excellent. All I need to do is pile all the arguments fro God’s existence together, in addition to giving you the testimony of hundreds of mystics
    If you had that evidence, why didn't you do so in the first place? Instead of playing the "neptune delusion" game? Or is the "evidence" the problem?

    Archeology sometimes goes against the bible: The Bible Unearthed by Finklestein, The View from Nebo by Amy Markus Out of the Desert by Steibing, and there are sites that deal with apologetics: Case against faith site, etc.


    Just make sure you read the three conditions above. They all would have to point to the xian god. And also that they don't use mind-altering drugs.


    and I can start to pile up a preponderance of evidence. So maybe God is not a delusion after all.
    Get the evidence first. Considering that people like the members of the Judaic religion have been refuting christian claims for a long time, you've got some work ahead of you.

    (Have a look around the site in that that second link, especially the Knowing Your Orchard and Judaism's Answer sections.)


    ”That was my point. What extra "sense" does the theist have that lets them "sense" any "god"?
    None. Many mystics actually see God or hear Him or feel Him on their skin. They use the same senses as you or I.
    Then your "blind atheist vs. Neptune analogy" doesn't apply here.

    That, and those mystics don't all come to a consensus on the same, "correct" god, do they?

    How many of those mystics that you've heard of use drugs of some sort?


    ”Maybe I should have said "corroborative" evidence, like multiple eyewitnesses, pictures, predictions or verified tests? If all you've got to go on is the word of one person with no corroborating evidence, that sometimes isn't even enough in a court of law.”
    Sorry to restate this, but… if you are willing to admit this, then excellent. All I need to do is pile all the arguments fro God’s existence together, in addition to giving you the testimony of hundreds of mystics and I can start to pile up a preponderance of evidence. So maybe God is not a delusion after all and can be proven in a court of law.
    Can't wait to see how long it'll take you to get the testimony of "hundreds" of mystics.

    As an interesting aside, this idea of a court setting was once done concerning the resurrection of Jesus between Christian G. Habermas and atheist A. Flew.
    The same debate commented on here?


    After all the arguments were presented, the nine judge panel that the historical case for the actual resurrection of Jesus was stronger than the atheist arguments. Interesting.
    Also interesting is to read the account, if available, and the critique of it if it isn't:
    A debate, where the speakers--after their initial prepared statements--have to rely on what comes to mind on the spur of the moment, is not a good way of discussing complicated issues. The desire to score points leads almost inevitably to muddle. For instance, Flew, referring (p. 12) to Paul's statement that the risen Jesus had been 'seen' by Peter, James and others as well as by himself, said that Paul is clearly taking it that their visionary experiences were of the same type as his own, and not crediting them with having had the kind of physical contact with the risen Jesus that is alleged in the gospels. Habermas, however (ever anxious to bring gospels and epistles into harmony), thought (p. 62) that Flew was here conceding the opposite


    Sometimes, it seems the atheist does better in the oral debate.

    Like with creationism/evolution debates, written ones are better. Each side has more time to research the other sides' points.


    ”So then, which of the same senses that scientists use to gain empirical evidence is used to experience "god"? Can you see him, hear her, touch them, smell it?”
    Quite simply, yes. That is the claim of many people.
    Too bad that goes against the bible which says that Jesus/God/whatever is up in heaven right now. He can't be seen, touched, etc. until he "comes again".


    ”Besides, you're leaving a few things out of the scientific view: Science experiments are logged, analyzed, and can be repeated by others. Tests are made, predictions are either verified or thrown out.”
    Absolutely. And the same mystical traditions are passed down and practiced by the same groups, with many similar results being achieved.
    Uh, I'm not talking about "traditions" getting "similar" results, I'm talking about physical experiments getting the same results. How do you classify "similar"? How close does it have to be?

    Also, since you're admitted that you're a xian and it's that god you'd be trying to prove, how many of those mytical experiences point to YOUR god?

    Does this now make them valid as proof?
    See what I just said.


    ”No, you're leaving out the actual testimony of those who have seen Neptune…”
    So you are admitting that testimony evidence is valid. Thus again, why not the testimony of a trustworthy mystic concerning God?
    There's the keyword: "trustworthy". Does their word verify the "holy scriptures" what it says about "god"? Does his word corroborate what every other "trustworthy" mystic says about your "god"?


    ”…and the fact that it's existence was originally predicted because of observed oddities in the orbits of other planets.”
    So now you are saying that empirical evidence is not required to prove something, but mathematical evidence will suffice. If you admit this, then you must admit the metaphysical arguments for God’s existence as valid.
    What?! How in hell can you conflate mathematics with metaphysics please?? Math relies on proofs, tests, and whatnot. What does "metaphysics" have? And give examples please to show it's realiability.


    ”What predictions and tests have been done to prove the existence of your "god"?”
    Empirically speaking, all mystical “tests” and “predictions” are valid.
    How many passed? How many verify both each other and the biblical writings? How many were done under controlled double-blind condiditions?

    If the mystic says that: if I meditate and pray diligently for ten years, God will reveal Himself to me and then tests this prediction and finds it to be true, the mystic is empirically correct to believe in God. You may not accept this evidence, but it has no bearing on the mystic’s empirical proof.
    See what I just wrote above. People who do that can have all sorts of hallucinations, especially if drugs, sleep deprivation or starvation is included. How many of those hallucinations correspond to the biblical account of "god"?


    “You've done both. And yes, your analogy still fails. Why? In real life, there are sighted people who have seen Neptune, and can explain the history of it's discovery etc.”
    Again, if you are willing to admit testimony evidence as valid, then excellent, but do not use a double-standard and discount it when the issue is the divine.
    I'm not using any double-standard. I'm trying to hold your mystical stuff to the same standard that science, math has.

    You're continually trying to get all this mystical stuff in to try and bolster your case. Why, if the empircal evidence is so strong?


    ”How many theists have "seen god"?”
    Many, so am I know justified in believing them?
    Does the bible say that's possible, so physically see your god? How about the stories of alien abductions then? Would you believe those just based on what they've "seen"?


    ”Besides, can this "sensory experience" be repeated like, say, the scientific experiements we were referring to earlier? How can you tell that the person is not just making things up?”
    Potentially, if you are willing to invest the time and effort to seek a mystical experience. Much like you would have to invest time and effort in understanding a scientific field before you could personally and empirically verify its claims.
    And if everyone else does the exact same steps to get that "mystical experience", they'd get the exact same result, which would prove the validity of that experience?

    Would each mystical experience verify the biblical account of "god"?

    That's how science works when something is discovered: it's the repeatablilty that gives the idea strength.


    ”And I shot that point down by pointing out a weakness of the alternate "explanation" you gave for the heat being generated by an "earthly atmosphere". How is defeating your explanation getting "sidetracked"? I've just shown how your reasoning can be proven wrong.”
    Except that I conceded the Sun issue.
    Only in your latest reply.

    But please, do tell how you would empirically prove (no testimony from others) to a blind person the exist of the Moon, Mars or other galaxies?
    If you discount all evidence, including the predictions made from previous people's observations of orbital pattersn, etc. then nothing can be proven. Wonder how you'll use that statement?


    ”…stuff like people corroborating each other's testimony, etc...”
    So hundreds of thousands of mystics throughout history does not count as corroborating testimony.
    Please prove that they all corroborate the same experiences. Also, since it's your god we're talking about, please show how every one of those experiences corroborates the biblical account.

    Wow, you have some high standards and good for you, just make sure to apply them to all empirical claims, not just the ones you personally disagree with.
    How's about providing some evidences intead of playing around with this gobbldegook you've been doing?

    If the evidence for your god is that strong, just present it instead of complaining about how athiests "can't prove the existence of Nepture to blind people".

    ”I'm not the one whose views forces him to accept at face value any story that anyone could make up without any evidence...”
    Empirically speaking, if I have a personal experience of the divine, that counts for more evidence then the testimony of anyone else.
    Since I've never had any though...

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  47. RD Miksa -

    You're a case study in bad rhetoric and fallacious reasoning.

    I glanced through your reply regarding the color blind astronomer, and I dread to begin listing all the fallacies. Almost every paragraph contains a red herring - you fail to stick to the argument that you yourself started.

    Let's look at the first part as an archetypal example of your methods:

    RDM - "How do they read, see and interpret this data? Through their senses, thus leading back to the subjective sensory experience problem."
    A - ”Not at all.”
    RDM - "Actually, this fact is undisputable. Please show me a scientist who receives information directly into his brain without evolving the senses."

    Now, in my reply to you, as is perfectly clear from reading it, I am addressing whether there is an actual problem in the "subjective sensory experience problem." I have never claimed that sensory experiences are not subjective - the issue raised was whether this constitutes a significant problem in science. And the first thing you do is to attack a straw man.

    Later you state this:

    "First, subjectivity is absolutely systematic in science (as in all things),"

    You have a habit of making assertions without argument, as here. If subjectivity is absolutely systematic in science, then why didn't I see canals on Mars when Lowell did? I think you don't understand the meaning of systematic. Systematic is the opposite of random. A systematic bias would mean that everybody (or a statistical majority) is guessing wrong in the same way. You are sure that this is going on in science, and that it is due to sensory perceptions? I am going to ask you to present a little more evidence for that, if you please.

    And then we have this exchange:

    A - “So before demolishing your color blind astronomer example…”
    RDM - "You did no such thing, because you admitted that the example is valid as is the subjectivity of the findings.
    So the final point."


    So. You jump to your final point without even addressing the counter argument that I presented, and you simply state that your "example is valid" - what do you mean by that anyway, that your argument holds up? Your original argument was that the color blind astronomer would derive different information from an astronomical image than an astronomer with normal vision - are you seriously suggesting that this argument is valid? The counter argument that I presented informed you that the color information is conveyed to them both by a semantic construct in the form of text, for instance "2.12 microns." You made no reply to this, and instead just stated that your example is "valid."

    Again, I have never claimed that subjectivity is nil - I even went so far as to point out some egregious examples of it - but the only question of interest is whether subjectivity, as it is, constitutes a fundamental problem in science. I gave you the necessary conditions for that to be the case, and you replied with a statement (although false) that failed to fulfill one of the conditions. So even by your own reckoning you arrive at the conclusion that it can't be the case - yet you continue to argue as if it is!

    You need to look over your arguments much more carefully if anybody is going to take you seriously.

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  48. "So, I am asking honestly, do you describe yourself philosophically as a deist or an atheist?"
    Philosophically? Atheist with pre-Big Bang agnosticism and bouts of stoner-logic deism. If that makes any sense, congratulations. I'm not even sure that I'm not just a brain in a jar. If I am, could you change the water? It's getting a little murky.

    "My apologies for the misunderstanding. I meant that I agreed with your statement that when compared to the total sum of available knowledge, are people are idiots…not you personally."
    My apologies for your apologies. I was joking. I do that, sometimes.

    "Would you say that you experienced God or the supernatural?"
    I experienced something, and it was a good enough something that I miss it dearly, and when I think about remembering (since memories end up being memories of memories), I'm temporarily vaguely deist. The causal chain looks planned (argument from design/fine tuning) (then the rational side kicks in and points out that causal is what it is; causal. The snowflake isn't planned to be a snowflake, it just is. It's still pretty cool. Also, it's pretty. Lastly, it's cool)

    "If so, this makes your atheism/deism a quite peculiar stance to hold."
    I am legion. I do agree with you that the mystical experience (if mine was anything like anybody else's) is tough to describe. Language didn't evolve to describe a glimpse of everything. I experienced something, and that experience was strong enough that I end up making less sense than I did before (when I also made no sense).
    To collapse to stoner philosophy: There's something there, man. It's right friggin' there.

    "If all I am is star matter, then I would be highly depressed, not in awe at all, in addition to changing my entire attitude towards things."
    Your matter being forged in the furnace of stars is depressing? Part of you was Thomas Jefferson's eyebrow. Another part spent time in a Tyrannosaurus Rex. You as "you" might not be eternal, but the parts that make up you (and lead to "you") pretty much are, entropy notwistanding. That is awe inspiring.

    "If all I am is matter, why should I be in awe of a world filled with disease, disasters, etc."
    That there are bad things in the world is no less sad without God, but there's no problem with the Problem of Suffering. Shit happens, sometimes.

    "In fact, I hate it and would have rational grounds to commit suicide the moment my general pain exceeds my pleasure."
    Well, I would phrase it more along the lines of "...when all there is left is pain". (Notice that at the end we treat our pets more humanely than we do ourselves. The closest we get to that for Man is a DNR tattoo).

    "You do know, of course, that this very statement undermines the very validity of science."
    Probably. I am an idiot. "Because we cannot rewind history and replay events after making small controlled changes, causation can only be inferred, never exactly known" (fm Correlation does not imply causation). Disbelief that mass attracts won't protect you from gravity when you fall down the stairs.

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  49. 4simpsons "... Christians can point to all sorts of evidence: Cosmological, teleological, logical, moral, historical and more. When atheists insist that we have no evidence or that they have the same amount of evidence for their Flying Spaghetti Monster, they really tip their hands."

    Indeed.

    Upon occasion when I hear this silliness from so-called atheists I ask them "What sort of thing would count as evidence for God, were there any evidence to be had?"

    For, after all, to assert that there is no evidence for God is to imply that one knows what such evidence would look like, were there any. It is hardly a rational stance to proclaim "There is no evidence to justify the belief that God exists" simultaneously with "But I couldn't recognize such evidence if it bit me in the ass."

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  50. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  51. Good thing that atheists don't say that we wouldn't know what that evidence would look like then, eh?

    We're looking for stuff like actual fulfilled prophecies, not loose apologetics to explain away the failures or to make it look like prophecies were accurate when they weren't (see the second part of the second post here); we're looking for actual complete archeological confirmation instead of getting a whole bunch of evidence that goes againt the bible. See the three books I've referred to before:

    The View From Nebo
    Out of the Desert
    The Bible Unearthed

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  52. We're also looking for big demonstrations of godly power, right here and now. Sweeping the sky clear of stars for a week would probably be good enough, but then putting them back to read "I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM" in 24 languages, lined up on Earth's equatorial plane, now [i]that[/i] would be neat.

    It would also doom me to Hell, but that's a small price to pay, ain't it, to witness such a fantastic trick?

    ReplyDelete
  53. Happy (Future) New Year Dave,

    Reference this comment:

    “We're also looking for big demonstrations of godly power, right here and now. Sweeping the sky clear of stars for a week would probably be good enough, but then putting them back to read "I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM" in 24 languages, lined up on Earth's equatorial plane, now would be neat.”

    I have written a new article addressing this issue, in a certain way, that you raise here. It will either be posted on Atheism is Dead or on my own blog and will be titled: A Convergence of Evidence: Can Atheists Justify their Belief in Evolution but not in God?

    Essentially, it asks why many atheists are willing to believe in evolution, even though they have never seen a display of its power in action—like an ape evolving into a man—but demand such absolute evidence from God before they will believe, like you did in your comment above.

    Anyway, I do not wish to discuss this idea till the article is posted, so please wait until that time. This is meant to serve as a simple heads-up of what is coming.

    Thank you.

    RD Miksa

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  54. Ahhh Modus,

    You bring a needed amount of levity to a topic that I often take way too personally, seriously and emotionally. For that, I thank you.


    “ I'm not even sure that I'm not just a brain in a jar. If I am, could you change the water?”

    I cannot, because I think I am in the jar beside you.


    “My apologies for your apologies. I was joking. I do that, sometimes.”

    And I am quite dense, with a mind that does not necessarily see humor when it should.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  55. "never seen a display of its power in action—like an ape evolving into a man"

    Add "evolution" to the list of things the author doesn't understand.

    Apes into humans is one of the most often cited examples of how creationists often lack even the most basic understanding of what evolution says and does not say. How can you argue against something that you obviously don't understand?

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  56. Happy (Future) New Year Adonais,

    Just so that you are aware—and perhaps I phrased the issue improperly—I was agreeing with you:

    I wrote:

    “First, subjectivity is absolutely systematic in science (as in all things),”

    You wrote:

    “…If subjectivity is absolutely systematic in science, then why didn't I see canals on Mars when Lowell did? I think you don't understand the meaning of systematic. Systematic is the opposite of random. A systematic bias would mean that everybody (or a statistical majority) is guessing wrong in the same way. You are sure that this is going on in science, and that it is due to sensory perceptions? I am going to ask you to present a little more evidence for that, if you please.”

    Now, subjectivity is systematic in science because by definition, all scientific data must be seen, read or interpreted by scientists with senses and brains that are subjective. However, at the same time, science has been able to ensure that this subjectivity is not pervasive enough to discredit the scientific enterprise.

    So, if you had looked at my full comment (below), you would have seen that I agreed with you:

    “First, subjectivity is absolutely systematic in science (as in all things), however, you are correct that it is not pervasive.”…thus implying that I agree with you that it is not a problem in science itself.

    However, let me summarize what I do see to be the problem:

    What the Neptune Delusion shows is that empiricism—the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience—when taken to its fundamental level, leads to absurdity/radical skepticism, for its core argument is that one should not trust something unless one has experienced it with ones own senses. This is a problem for science, not because subjectivity is pervasive in science, but because the practice of science, in its totality, by definition cannot be empiricist. No scientist can confirm all previous data with his own senses, but has both faith and trust in that the work of others is sound in order for him to conduct his own experiments. And lay people have even more faith and trust in these scientists, for they probably lack both the knowledge and capability to check their claims. However, if people are willing to have both faith and trust in the subjective work and interpretation of scientists as a method of discovering knowledge, then it would constitute a double-standard not to be willing to place faith and trust—at least to a certain level—in the subjective work and interpretation of individuals with religious experiences.

    If you plan to hold to empiricism, that is fine, but do so the full extent and in all areas, including science.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  57. Good Day Philip,

    Just a few quick points.

    First, it is quite rational, intelligent and sophisticated of you to assert that I certainly do not understand evolution after reading just one sentence that I wrote on the subject which was meant more to provide an example that is comparative of the demand that atheists make for God before they will believe in Him, then it was to show my understanding of evolution.

    Second, it was excellent of you to assume that I am a creationist, even though that is incorrect.

    Third, I apologize for trying to argue against something that I obviously do not understand. Or wait, is it just the pre-conceived, irrational and baseless creation of me that you have dreamt up in your mind that does not understand it. Perhaps, because you seem so cocksure of your incorrect assumptions after reading only a few lines that I wrote on the subject, you actually misunderstand me and thus, I should not argue with you due to your lack of understanding.

    Fourth, I am not arguing against evolution, but trying to make a comparison, as will be seen.

    Fifth, if you would like to wait a few days, the full article will be forth-coming.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  58. Hi RD:

    Most often, when critics of evolution talk about apes turning into men, they ask "then why are there still apes?" While a generalization on my part, anyone who says 'AN ape (singular) evolving into A man (singular)' sounds like just such a critic. The vast majority of those critics are known as creationists. I'm sorry if it was too far of a stretch.

    Based on your use of the words 'empirical' and 'atheist' which I previously addressed, I look forward to you proving me wrong.

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  59. Good Day Philip,

    “Most often, when critics of evolution talk about apes turning into men, they ask "then why are there still apes?" While a generalization on my part, anyone who says 'AN ape (singular) evolving into A man (singular)' sounds like just such a critic. The vast majority of those critics are known as creationists. I'm sorry if it was too far of a stretch.”

    No problem at all. But now, let us address this issue:

    ”Based on your use of the words 'empirical' and 'atheist' which I previously addressed, I look forward to you proving me wrong.”

    Your last post stated:

    “Apparently the author does not understand the meaning of the words "empirical" or "atheist".”

    Let us test this claim:

    “Empirical evidence by definition is vastly different than anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence is not generally capable of being confirmed as reliable, while empirical evidence can be.”

    Actually, empirical by definition (Oxford dictionary) means: 1. based or acting on observation or experiment, not on theory. 2. regarding sense data as valid information. 3. deriving knowledge from experience alone.

    Now, anecdotal means: 1. of, pertaining to, or consisting of anecdotes. 2. based on or consisting of incidental observations or reports rather than systematic research.

    With these two definitions, it is clear that anecdotal evidence can be empirical and it is actually you who are wrong in your assertion that I do not understand. For example, when people see (empirical evidence) a car accident, they report their incidental observations (anecdotal evidence) to the police. Anecdotal evidence is empirical evidence, but it is evidence that is not gained from a systematic research method.

    Next:

    ”An atheist does not generally rule out the possibility of God or gods (though some do), he simply lacks belief in the gods in the same way people today lack belief in Amen Ra or Phaedra.”

    From the Oxford Dictionary:

    Atheist: a person that disbelieves in the existence of God or gods. (ie – No God or gods)

    Agnostic: a person who believes that it is not possible to know whether or not God exists. (ie – maybe God or gods, but I have no idea)

    Thus, your definition of an atheist actually means an agnostic, which begs the question, have you been defining yourself as an atheist when you are really agnostic?


    Anyway Philip, this entire post was simply meant to explain: be very careful when you claim that a person does not understand something, because the person that does not understand could actually be you. Indeed, I have found myself in such a position many times before and a little humility is always in order.

    Take care and thank you for expressing interest in my other paper,

    RD Miksa

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  60. I haven't read through all the comments on this one, so apologies if this point has already been made.
    The analogy made in this article is false.
    A blind person knows they are blind and (more to the point) knows that there are sighted people upon whose word they need to rely.
    They know this empirically because they do it all the time. It's part of their way of life.
    To compare this to atheists being unable to see evidence because they are blind doesn't really compare.
    Because in the case of "evidence" for religious belief, everyone is blind. There are no trustworthy "sighted" people in possession of the necessary evidence.

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  61. @Matt
    Because in the case of "evidence" for religious belief, everyone is blind. There are no trustworthy "sighted" people in possession of the necessary evidence.
    There are such people.

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  62. @tremor

    OK. So you say.
    But as a "blind" person, how can I empirically know that I can trust the claims of the "sighted"?

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  63. Hello Matt,

    “I haven't read through all the comments on this one, so apologies if this point has already been made.”

    No problem. The comments board is getting a little convoluted, thanks in no small part to me. Now, to your comments:


    “A blind person knows they are blind…”

    How do they know this? They have never seen anything, but have trusted other people’s testimony to tell them that there is such a thing as seeing and not seeing. They do not know they are blind because they do not know what sight is (assuming the person is blind from birth).


    “…and (more to the point) knows that there are sighted people upon whose word they need to rely.”

    This is the point of the Neptune Delusion, that we trust other people all the time in certain matters, even if we will never empirically verify their claims, yet when it comes to testimony about the divine, a double-standard immediately applies.


    ”Because in the case of "evidence" for religious belief, everyone is blind.”

    Actually, many people claim to have seen God or heard Him, etc.


    “There are no trustworthy "sighted" people in possession of the necessary evidence.”

    Why the double-standard? Take the Neptune Delusion again. Why in your view is it correct for a blind person to trust you when you tell him that Neptune exists but it is incorrect for the same blind person to trust me when I say that I have seen an angel? To the blind person, Neptune and an angel are both immaterial and will never be empirically confirmed by that blind person (and assuming that we are both equally trustworthy), so again, why the double standard?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  64. Hello Again Matt,

    "OK. So you say.
    But as a "blind" person, how can I empirically know that I can trust the claims of the "sighted"?"

    This is another issue that the Neptune Delusion brings out. If we do not trust the empirical claims of trustworthy people, even though we will never verify their claims for ourselves, then we must adopt a radical skepticism which leads to a world of absurdity, where everyone can claim everyone else is delusional.

    But if we concede that trust in others is required for an non-absurd existence, then why the double-standard when it comes to trusting people's claims about the divine?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  65. "Anyway Philip, this entire post was simply meant to explain: be very careful when you claim that a person does not understand something, because the person that does not understand could actually be you."


    Agreed-- perhaps it is both of us. When defining words we may disagree upon, perhaps we should look at what they actually mean, instead of the common conception of what their meaning is.

    Simply by choosing a different dictionary, we can get a vastly different impression on what a word means. For instance, Cambridge says that 'anecdotal' "describes information that is not based on facts or careful study." Some definitions for empirical readily available online specifically exclude any framework of rigor, which I would exclude from my definition of empricism.

    Oxford is generally a good source, but even the Anglicans would not call them unbiased.
    The original greek a-(without) theos(gods) literally means 'godless'. Perhaps you are more comfortable with the word 'non-theist'?

    Cordially,
    Philip

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  66. Matt -

    "The analogy made in this article is false."

    Exactly what I pointed out as well, I don't know why people are still discussing it. It is a fallacious argument.

    A valid argument by analogy would be something like this:

    Concept A is the propositional belief that the planet Neptune exists.

    Concept B is the propositional belief that the Judeo-Christian God exists.

    A has the following properties:

    A1 Can be observationally verified by people with normal vision.
    A2 Can not be observationally verified by sensory-deprived (blind) people.
    A3 Because of A1, it is rational for people with normal vision to hold belief A as propositionally correct, despite A2.

    B has the following properties:

    B1 Can be observationally verified by people with normal "inner vision."
    B2 Can not be observationally verified by sensory-deprived (God-blind) people.

    By analogy with A, we infer that B also has a property analogous to A3, which gives the sought-after conclusion:

    :. B3 Because of B1, it is rational for people with normal inner-vision to hold belief B as propositionally correct, despite B2.

    An alternative version (RD Miksa has been arguing both ways) would have different A3 and B3:

    A3' Because of A1, it is still rational for blind people to hold belief A as propositionally correct.

    And by analogy:

    :. B3' Because of B1, it is still rational for God-blind people to hold belief B as propositionally correct.

    Whichever version you choose, the validity of the analogy hinges (aside from the questionable premise B1) on a similarity between A1+A2 and B1+B2, that is, that there exists a difference in sensory perception in both concepts. This is why I asked RD Miksa if he was suggesting that theists have ESP, to which he replied that: "this is not an extra sense." So that pretty much spells it out. The analogy is broken, and the argument is fallacious.

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  67. Hello Again Philip,

    "Agreed-- perhaps it is both of us. When defining words we may disagree upon, perhaps we should look at what they actually mean, instead of the common conception of what their meaning is."

    Excellent advice and one that is to often forgotten. Case in point, I did not cite my sources (before your post) for the definitions that I was using.

    Take care,

    Rados

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  68. I would comment about this, but judging by adonais's last remark I don't have to: this argument is more of a joke than a legitimate philosophical statement. Move on now, please...

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  69. RD Miksa,

    I see that my tongue-in-cheek comment grabbed your attention far more than what you professed interest in: getting out of the solipsistic trap without the helping hand of a deity. So be it. Your loss.

    By the way, argumentum ad Oxford is a poor substitute for responding to the actual positions people take, which often don't shoehorn nicely into fixed categories like the dictionary definitions you're obviously fond of (but you cite only one for each term? How dishonest!). But guess what? By not knowing whether a god exists, agnostics clearly don't believe in one. Yup: all agnostics are atheists, per the definitions you have provided. And most atheists are agnostics.

    But really, to get the full meaning of the terms (especially since the modern definitions are sadly lacking in nuance), you might want to read some Huxley. To good ol' Tom, the only atheist who wouldn't be an agnostic is one who had some sort of mystical knowledge of the absence of god.

    Oh, another by the way: you're dead wrong on one other definition. Empiricism is not a theory, it is a philosophy. Really, what I previously wrote is true: if you can name a single modern-day philosophical empiricist, I will be very much impressed.

    I'll also be impressed if you can name a single working astronomer who denies the existence of Neptune. After all, you said that every theory has its detractors, and if your take on empiricism is correct, then the existence of Neptune is just a theory.

    How do you think working geologists approach the question of the existence of the Earth? Philosophically, I mean.

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  70. Oh, shoot! I meant to mention that I'm looking forward to the publication of "A Convergence of Evidence..." Please be sure to link to it from this thread.

    You should also feel free to join up over at the Skeptic Friends Network, and post it there.

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  71. adonis: "... Formal proofs are useful in mathematics, but even there it has been shown that any non-trivial consistent arithmetic system will contain true but unprovable statements."

    Actually, that's a misstatement and a misunderstanding, common though it is.

    Such a system *does not* contain these true but unprovable statements; if it *did* contain then, then they would ipso facto be provable within the system.

    A *correct* understanding of this curious fact about formal axiomatic systems is to say that these true but unprovable statements can be expressed in terms of the system.

    Another way to understand this is that these true but unprovable statements are contained withing some superset of the particular formal system; that is, within a different formal axiomatic system which also contains the entirety of the first formal system.



    But hey! I quite understand why you need to disparage 'proof.'

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  72. RD Miksa,
    What you are exploring is the fact of the "unprincipled exception" that 'atheists' *always* fall back upon to:
    1) privilege and protect atheism from rational and critical scrutiny
    1a) sometimes, privilege and protect Buddhism from rational and critical scrutiny
    2) disparage Biblical religion *without* engaging in rational and critical scrutiny of it

    Kudos to you.

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  73. Good (Yet Another) Morning Dave,

    "I see that my tongue-in-cheek comment grabbed your attention far more than what you professed interest in: getting out of the solipsistic trap without the helping hand of a deity. So be it. Your loss."

    I will be looking to answer both your comments later today. And thank you for the invite to the Skeptic Friends Network. Much appreciated.

    Have a good day and I will endeavor to answer as soon as possible.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  74. Happy New Year's Eve to everyone, and einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr! (a good slide into the new year).

    Hey adonais- nice work. I too have peered through the old Lick refractor, a long time ago. And I too have often seen Neptune, being an old amateur astronomer (my current telescope is a 5" refractor I built with a war surplus lens, around F/15- good for planetary work, but a bit unwieldy...).

    Reynold, M.O., Samuel, and Dave: Are you also suffering from the Siwoti syndrome? Shouldn't you all be eating leftover Christmas cookies? We still have a lot I really shouldn't eat- c'mon over. That goes for you theists, too, of course.

    I can't really add anything that hasn't already been said to the party here, but here's my two cents' worth of spin anyways.

    First: as has already been pointed out, the problem of a blind atheist is a red herring- we are all blind atheists in a way. No one has perfect senses or access to all information; thus we must often decide whom to trust, and what kinds of information to trust, at least provisionally (of course, all scientific knowledge is provisional, pending further developments). This is a problem all of us face, and has nothing to do with being an atheist or a believer. So the analogy with the blind "aNeptunist" limps (as they say here). Our decisions about what and whom to trust are informed by more than just our senses: we also decide on the basis of what has shown itself to be trustworthy in the past. And I, like most people, would generally trust theories (or asseverations of any kind) that are replicable, falsifiable, and logical: in other words, scientific. Someone claiming that God touched them is none of the above.

    Second: if it's "rational" to accept the word of mystics about their experiences, there are two things we must think about. One: where do we draw the line with accepting people at their word? Others here have already pointed out the problem with mutually-contradicting religious accounts. I would go further: if I accept Fred's account of seeing (or hearing, or feeling, or knowing, or whatever) God, why should I not also accept Frank's account of seeing aliens, or of his being Napoleon, or of the world ending if I vote Democratic? Where do you draw the line with credulity? So far, RDM has given us no guidelines, so by his standards, if someone offers to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge for a dollar, I would be passing up a bargain if I refused.

    Second: I don't think anyone here disputes the fact that some people truly feel that they have experienced God in some way. The question is, what does that mean? Does that prove that there must be a Supreme Being who is giving people these experiences, or does it just mean that perhaps we humans are prone to such experiences, which only take place in our own heads?

    Consider another analogy: while awake, our eyes (if we're not blind) are continually darting from place to place in movements called "saccades", so that we have a continuously updated picture of our surroundings. Our brains correct for the movement of our eyes in such a way that the world does not seem to move, even though the picture on our retinas is shifting dizzily. Other animals, for instance chickens, don't have the brainpower to do this; thus, when they walk, they hold their heads still (as much as possible) so as to not shift the picture on their retinas, and then suddenly jerk their heads to a new position and hold them there with the next picture: this leads to the typical head-bobbing of many birds.

    But if you don't move your eye with your eye muscles, but rather push on your eye (through your eyelid) with your finger, you shift your eyeball without its being registered by the brain, and the whole world seems to shift. Try it, but not if you've just drunk a lot of eggnog.

    Now, this is an experience that many people have had, and it can be readily replicated. You, too, can make the world move, with just one finger. But because there is no religion behind this, I doubt that many people would claim that they are really making the world move with their finger, as much as it might so appear: there is simply no evidence that other people feel anything, or that vases fall from the mantelpiece, or whatever. Most of us are willing to call this an illusion, albeit an interesting and revealing one.

    Similarly, many people have the experience of oneness with the Universe, or of a Being, or a Light, or whatever. These experiences, whatever they might mean, are often connected with religions that promise an afterlife. Imho, that is enough reason to explain why people find them more believable than moving the world with a finger: there's a powerful incentive to believe in a God who can grant you eternal life. But I don't see any reason to grant such visions any more credulity than the world-shifting illusion. Or do you, RDM, have some sure-fire way of deciding what to believe and what not? If so, pray tell us. Otherwise, I might vote Republican next election.

    cheers from frosty Vienna, zilch

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  75. Hello Dave,

    I just wanted to address your most recent post first:

    ”By the way, argumentum ad Oxford is a poor substitute for responding to the actual positions people take, which often don't shoehorn nicely into fixed categories like the dictionary definitions you're obviously fond of (but you cite only one for each term? How dishonest!).”

    Hmmm, arguing “ad Oxford” is a perfectly fine method to use when the argument that Philip took was that I did not understand the definition of the terms “atheist” or “empirical/anecdotal”. Thus, I used a highly regarded dictionary, which is a book that deals with definitions, in order to show that I did understand the terms that Philip claimed I did not. I thought that this would be a rational method of proceeding considering dictionaries are made to provide definitions. If you can provide me with a reference of something other than a dictionary that is a commonly accepted tool for clarifying definitions, then I will gladly use it. I will await your response for what I should use.;)


    ”But really, to get the full meaning of the terms (especially since the modern definitions are sadly lacking in nuance), you might want to read some Huxley.”

    So now, only Huxley has the full meaning of the term that you are referring to? Or do I also have to read everyone else—past and present—that has ever “fully” defined or refined or elaborated on a particular term before I can claim to understand it? If that is the case, then you, I and everyone else has a lot of reading to do before we can understand anything. Or should I, as is commonly accepted, use a dictionary for my definitions, which is why they exist in the first place.

    Furthermore, by what criteria do you to claim that Huxley provides the full meaning of the term? Just because he originated it, does not mean that it has not been refined and elaborated. Perhaps you need to read a few different authors, that I can claim are more “nuanced”, before you understand the full meaning of the terms that I use. And such claims and counter-claims can move back and forth for a good long until we use a common source, like a dictionary. Anyway…


    “But guess what? By not knowing whether a god exists, agnostics clearly don't believe in one. Yup: all agnostics are atheists, per the definitions you have provided.”

    If you actually read what I wrote, I am quite aware that agnostics do not believe in God, but they believe that there is a possibility that God might exist (which is what Philip wrote), whereas atheists do not believe that any god or gods exist with no possibility of that existence. Now, before you attack this, look at your next point:


    “And most atheists are agnostics.”

    OK, so “most”, but not all, atheists are agnostics. Which shows, by your very writing, that there exists a clear difference between the terms atheist and agnostic; therefore, to describe oneself as an atheist, when one is really an agnostic, is disingenuous, misleading and false. Thus a question now arises, seeing as you have shown that you believe the terms atheist and agnostic are not synonymous, are you an atheist or an agnostic?


    ”Oh, another by the way: you're dead wrong on one other definition. Empiricism is not a theory, it is a philosophy.”

    Oxford Dictionary - Empiricism: the theory that all knowledge comes from experience and observation.

    Wikipedia (I know, I know…): In philosophy, empiricism is a theory of knowledge which asserts that knowledge arises from experience.

    Now, I fully admit that these are only two sources (and one is poor) and other definitions are available, but please do not insult me by saying that I am “dead wrong” when clearly, I am not—especially when you have not even bothered to ask me what my sources were. So, while I may not be “fully” correct in my definition—and I admit this—I am certainly not dead wrong.

    Therefore, I await your gentlemen’s apology for such a baseless, irrational and emotive assertion. ;)


    “Really, what I previously wrote is true: if you can name a single modern-day philosophical empiricist, I will be very much impressed.”

    Richard Rorty, Nelson Goodman, H. Morick, W.V. Quine, Hilary Putnam, Karl Popper, Michael Dummett, etc.

    However, let me be quite honest. I fully admit that I do not know enough—in fact very little—about the intricacies of empiricism. I have a layman’s knowledge, which is why I try to increase it through interesting debates on a forum like this with knowledgeable people like you.

    In addition, name dropping does not count as much of an argument in my opinion. I really well might be wrong in my views, but naming dropping does not make those views any more correct or incorrect.


    ”I'll also be impressed if you can name a single working astronomer who denies the existence of Neptune. After all, you said that every theory has its detractors, and if your take on empiricism is correct, then the existence of Neptune is just a theory.”

    I would be happy to oblige and in fact, I just heard something on the radio that will answer this. But first, let us be clear on the common definition of astronomer, so we are working from the same page. Again, from the Oxford dictionary—Astronomer: a person that studies the universe and its contents beyond the bounds of the Earth’s atmosphere.

    So here is an astronomer that denies the existence of Neptune. On the radio, I recently heard a talk about various tribes that current living in the Amazon Rainforests devoid of any contact (or at least any major contact) with the outside (technological/industrial) world. However, at the same time, these tribes have “wise” men that, with their naked eye (empiricism), study the moon, Mars and other aspects of the universe beyond the bounds of the Earth’s atmosphere (astronomy). These primitive and working astronomers do not, however, see Neptune and thus to these particular astronomers, the existence of Neptune is either just a theory or a delusion.

    Now, you might claim that if they had the necessary equipment, training, etc. they would see Neptune, but the fact is that they do not believe in the existence of Neptune while currently being actual astronomers and empiricists. Thus, by definition and according to your challenge, these people are astronomers that consider Neptune to be a theory. The fact that they are primitive astronomers in no way negates the truth that they are, by definition, real and working astronomers, nor does it negate the fact that they are using empirical methods (their eyes) to conduct their astronomy.

    Perhaps this is not the answer that you were looking for, but it meets all your criteria and thus, there currently exist astronomers that believe the existence of Neptune is just a theory.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  76. zilch "Reynold, M.O., Samuel, and Dave: Are you also suffering from the Siwoti syndrome?"
    That's what brought me here in the first place, back when this was Atheism Sucks! I don't even remember what the offending post was about, but it annoyed me enough to post a no doubt lengthy and virtually incoherent rejoinder.

    RD Miksa "Perhaps this is not the answer that you were looking for, but it meets all your criteria and thus, there currently exist astronomers that believe the existence of Neptune is just a theory."
    Suddenly I'm picturing pygmies with blowguns running around the forest shouting "Neptune is just a theory! Teach the controversy!" Once they invent the wedge, I assume, they'll write up a manifesto of some kind.

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  77. Hey, M.O., me too! Let's hear it for lengthy incoherence! Happy New Year!

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  78. Zilch: I google hunted the old site for the oldest post with my name. While I'm moderately certain that the oldest post of mine listed isn't actually my first post, it was interesting seeing just how different the subjects were that I tended to comment on.
    Way back in 2007, it was evolution and biblical literalism. That's so different...from... Hey! I'm in Groundhog Day!

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  79. M.O.- but remember, Groundhog Day had a happy ending. One of my favorite movies.

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  80. Btw- I don't remember exactly when I started commenting at Atheism Sucks, but at some point I went back and deleted most of my old posts, when Frank's censorship got to be too sucky. That's one big improvement here.

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  81. Happy New Year's Eve to you Zilch,

    ”First: as has already been pointed out, the problem of a blind atheist is a red herring- we are all blind atheists in a way. No one has perfect senses or access to all information; thus we must often decide whom to trust, and what kinds of information to trust, at least provisionally (of course, all scientific knowledge is provisional, pending further developments).”

    Thank you this clear statement. This is the point of the Neptune Delusion, to show that in order for existence to non-absurd, we must, by necessity, trust people, even if we will never be able to empirically verify their claims.


    “This is a problem all of us face, and has nothing to do with being an atheist or a believer.”

    Absolutely.


    “Our decisions about what and whom to trust are informed by more than just our senses: we also decide on the basis of what has shown itself to be trustworthy in the past.”

    Agreed.


    “And I, like most people, would generally trust theories (or asseverations of any kind) that are replicable, falsifiable, and logical: in other words, scientific. Someone claiming that God touched them is none of the above.”

    Now wait one moment. Mystical experiences can fit your criteria. For example, the mystic will claim that if a person follows the same regime of prayer, meditation, etc. for a set period, he will have the same experience as the mystic. Thus, the experience is replicable. It is also falsifiable because if you follow the mystic’s regime and his claim proves unfounded, then his claim is false. Finally, it is logical in the sense that it is logical for a mystic to state that if his “God” claims that communication can occur with prayer and meditation, then it makes sense for the mystic to use these particular techniques to try to determine if his God is real.

    However, using your same criteria, are you therefore agnostic about “historical sciences” (like evolution), which are non-replicable and non-observable.


    ”Second: if it's "rational" to accept the word of mystics about their experiences, there are two things we must think about. One: where do we draw the line with accepting people at their word? Others here have already pointed out the problem with mutually-contradicting religious accounts. I would go further: if I accept Fred's account of seeing (or hearing, or feeling, or knowing, or whatever) God, why should I not also accept Frank's account of seeing aliens, or of his being Napoleon, or of the world ending if I vote Democratic? Where do you draw the line with credulity?”

    Absolutely, but the problem of credulity is, like you say, a separate issue. It is not insurmountable, nor does negate the fact that we must consider the experiences. At the same time, consider that your paragraphs could very easily be used against the “soft” sciences, which are science nonetheless. When is it rational to believe in one scientific theory over another? When 100% of scientists believe it? When 50.1% of scientists believe it? How is “rational” scientific credulity established in these cases?


    “So far, RDM has given us no guidelines…”

    Quite true, but that is a much wider discussion and perhaps one which I will write an essay on. (Thank you for providing the incentive.)


    ”Second: I don't think anyone here disputes the fact that some people truly feel that they have experienced God in some way. The question is, what does that mean? Does that prove that there must be a Supreme Being who is giving people these experiences, or does it just mean that perhaps we humans are prone to such experiences, which only take place in our own heads?”

    Obviously, this is quite possible (if not likely) and a naturalistic example is the most coherent, but if a natural explanation is unsatisfactory or weak, we cannot automatically rule out other explanations. Thus, these experiences must be looked at with a critical eye, not just with one that automatically assumes a naturalist explanation.


    ”Similarly, many people have the experience of oneness with the Universe, or of a Being, or a Light, or whatever. These experiences, whatever they might mean, are often connected with religions that promise an afterlife. Imho, that is enough reason to explain why people find them more believable than moving the world with a finger: there's a powerful incentive to believe in a God who can grant you eternal life.”

    Zilch, I know that you stated that this is just your opinion, so I am not going to focus on it, but I just wanted to point out that in certain cases, the mystical experiences are highly negative—involving feelings of extreme pain, suffering, etc. (ie – hell or hells)—which greatly reduces the claim that people would be willing to believe in these experiences because they are beneficial (ie – eternal life).


    “But I don't see any reason to grant such visions any more credulity than the world-shifting illusion. Or do you, RDM, have some sure-fire way of deciding what to believe and what not? If so, pray tell us.”

    I do have a method to determine the mystics’ claims. Study and then implement their methods. If after ten to twenty years of mystical study, you find their experiences and claims baseless, then that is a rational way of going determining this.

    Now, I understand that the vast majority of people (believers and non-believers alike) would scoff at spending decades during to personally verify the claims of mystics. But let me ask you if this is any different for an enterprise such as science. If I wish, for example, to personally verify the claims of high-level physics, rather then just taking physicists on trust, I would have to devote at least a decade to serious study and then at least another decade to personally test all the claims through experiment. So I understand that we should be more skeptical of a mystics claim, but we should not introduce an unfair double-standard just because the claims of mystics “seem” less credible.

    Take care and have an excellent New Year.

    RD Miksa

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  82. RD Miksa wrote:
    "Thus a question now arises, seeing as you have shown that you believe the terms atheist and agnostic are not synonymous, are you an atheist or an agnostic?"

    I'm an agnostic atheist.

    "Oxford Dictionary - Empiricism: the theory that all knowledge comes from experience and observation.

    Wikipedia (I know, I know…): In philosophy, empiricism is a theory of knowledge which asserts that knowledge arises from experience.

    Now, I fully admit that these are only two sources (and one is poor) and other definitions are available, but please do not insult me by saying that I am “dead wrong” when clearly, I am not—especially when you have not even bothered to ask me what my sources were. So, while I may not be “fully” correct in my definition—and I admit this—I am certainly not dead wrong.
    "

    Clearly the other problem with arguing from dictionary definitions is that dictionaries can be wrong. Since theories are explanations of phenomena, empiricism cannot be a theory because it doesn't explain anything. Instead, it is a philosophical assertion regarding the basis for knowledge.

    "Therefore, I await your gentlemen’s apology for such a baseless, irrational and emotive assertion. ;)"

    Ah, then I have nothing to apologize for.

    "Richard Rorty, Nelson Goodman, H. Morick, W.V. Quine, Hilary Putnam, Karl Popper, Michael Dummett, etc."

    Wow, it's like a Who's Who list of philosophers who reject verificationism. Popper and Quine, especially, would be pretty insulted to be called philosophical empiricists.

    "However, let me be quite honest. I fully admit that I do not know enough—in fact very little—about the intricacies of empiricism. I have a layman’s knowledge, which is why I try to increase it through interesting debates on a forum like this with knowledgeable people like you."

    Yet you appear to be refusing to do so. Despite careful correction, you seem to still be clinging to the idea that scientific methodological empiricism is synonymous with the ancient Greek philosophy of empiricism.

    "In addition, name dropping does not count as much of an argument in my opinion. I really well might be wrong in my views, but naming dropping does not make those views any more correct or incorrect."

    No, the point was that you cannot name a current modern philosophical empiricist because no such person exists. And rather ironically, the people you named all reject philosophical empiricism, in that they would all agree (were most of them not dead) that concepts can be true independent of our senses.

    "Perhaps this is not the answer that you were looking for, but it meets all your criteria and thus, there currently exist astronomers that believe the existence of Neptune is just a theory."

    Of course, it's just another argument by definition. You've very carefully selected definitions for words, with a vicious prejudice against the common or self-identified meanings. Your strict definition of "astronomer" must include those mystics who claim out-of-body travels throughout the universe. Your definition of "empirical" rejects the intentions of those who ask you for evidence. Your definition of "atheist" ignores what atheists themselves have to say.

    There's a reason why teachers don't simply toss dictionaries at students, and say, "look up this list of words and learn the definitions, there will be a test next week." If such were a good idea, there would be no need for textbooks.

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  83. RD Miksa wrote:
    "Mystical experiences can fit your criteria. For example, the mystic will claim that if a person follows the same regime of prayer, meditation, etc. for a set period, he will have the same experience as the mystic. Thus, the experience is replicable."

    But the experience doesn't mean that God exists. No more than replicably being able to turn a lightbulb on and off demonstrates the existence of photons.

    "It is also falsifiable because if you follow the mystic’s regime and his claim proves unfounded, then his claim is false."

    Unfortunately, many mystics would say that failure indicates that the person didn't follow the regime correctly. In the cases of prayer and meditation, it is impossible to verify that the regime was followed correctly.

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  84. Hello Again Dave,

    Your points:

    ”Clearly the other problem with arguing from dictionary definitions is that dictionaries can be wrong.”

    I respect you as a very competent individual, but you will have to excuse me if I take the authority of a dictionary reference a definition over your own.


    “Since theories are explanations of phenomena, empiricism cannot be a theory because it doesn't explain anything. Instead, it is a philosophical assertion regarding the basis for knowledge.”

    Here you are (Please look at #4,5,6 which all show that “empiricism” can be defined as a theory):

    the⋅o⋅ry
       /ˈθi ə ri, ˈθɪər i/ Show Spelled Pronunciation Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun, plural -ries.

    1. a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity.
    2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
    3. Mathematics. a body of principles, theorems, or the like, belonging to one subject: number theory.
    4. the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice: music theory.
    5. a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles.
    6. contemplation or speculation.
    7. guess or conjecture.

    I have no problem with you calling me incompetent as long as you are not so yourself, so please, read ALL the ways a word can be defined before telling me (or the Oxford dictionary) that the term 'theory' does not describe 'empiricism'.


    ”Ah, then I have nothing to apologize for.”

    Well, to be honest I do not really care, but I just wished to point out that I was not “dead wrong” as you baselessly and wrongly asserted. I will accept your apology if you give it, but do not worry, I will not hold my breath.


    ”Of course, it's just another argument by definition. You've very carefully selected definitions for words, with a vicious prejudice against the common or self-identified meanings.”

    Dave, I must admit, I am very confused. When I used the common definition and understanding of atheist, you told me that I was not nuanced enough and that I did not have a “full” understanding of the meaning and further study was needed on my part. Now, I try to be precise and follow clear definitions to the letter, and you are telling me that I am not common enough in my understanding. Please let me know what subjects you have personally determined should be viewed through a common lens and which ones need to seen in their nuanced form, because until I know your personal selections, I am either too much of one or the other for you.


    “Your definition of "atheist" ignores what atheists themselves have to say.”

    That is because many atheists have such a wide variety of definitions, you can get two or three different definitions from two or three different atheists—hence the dictionary.

    Take care and have a Happy New Year,

    RD Miksa

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  85. Hello Again Dave,

    ”But the experience doesn't mean that God exists. No more than replicably being able to turn a lightbulb on and off demonstrates the existence of photons.”

    Unless the mystical experience leads to God (or some type of ‘supernatural’ agent) appearing or speaking to the mystic, at which point, from an empirical perspective, the mystic has sensory confirmation that God exists. If the mystic claimed that such an experience (God presenting Himself to the senses) was replicable through his methods, then that would add weight to the claim that a mystic experience is both replicable and can show that God exists.


    ”Unfortunately, many mystics would say that failure indicates that the person didn't follow the regime correctly.”

    I cannot argue with this, for it is true. That, however, does not negate the fact that it is falsifiable. If the mystic gives a detailed regime (type of techniques and time needed in practice), then if the mystic’s plan fails after being followed to the letter, then that shows it is falsifiable.


    “In the cases of prayer and meditation, it is impossible to verify that the regime was followed correctly.”

    The person that was following the mystic’s plan (as long as that plan was detailed and clear) could know if it was followed correctly.

    Take care (and I am still working on one of your earlier posts).

    RD Miksa

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  86. RDM- I will adopt Reynold's protocol, and boldize my original statements, italicize your replies, and normalize my current comments.

    And I, like most people, would generally trust theories (or asseverations of any kind) that are replicable, falsifiable, and logical: in other words, scientific. Someone claiming that God touched them is none of the above.

    Now wait one moment. Mystical experiences can fit your criteria. For example, the mystic will claim that if a person follows the same regime of prayer, meditation, etc. for a set period, he will have the same experience as the mystic. Thus, the experience is replicable. It is also falsifiable because if you follow the mystic’s regime and his claim proves unfounded, then his claim is false. Finally, it is logical in the sense that it is logical for a mystic to state that if his “God” claims that communication can occur with prayer and meditation, then it makes sense for the mystic to use these particular techniques to try to determine if his God is real.

    I will agree that all of what you say might be testable, but all you could show is that the belief of being touched by God is (conceivably) replicable and falsifiable; and from within the belief system of the mystic, it is also logical. But what is shown by success here? Not that God exists, unless by "God" you simply mean "conviction of God's existence". And no one doubts that "conviction of God's existence" exists.

    However, using your same criteria, are you therefore agnostic about “historical sciences” (like evolution), which are non-replicable and non-observable.

    While it's true that we can't rewind the tape of evolution and see dinosaurs chasing mammals around with our own living eyes, smaller bits of evolution are replicable and observable. And evolution has left a number of many kinds of traces, which are admittedly not complete, but taken together provide us with a very good picture. The same is true of other historical sciences, such as plate tectonics and cosmology. But strictly speaking, all science and indeed all experience is "historical" as soon as it is in the past: can you replicate and observe your own yesterday?

    Second: if it's "rational" to accept the word of mystics about their experiences, there are two things we must think about. One: where do we draw the line with accepting people at their word? Others here have already pointed out the problem with mutually-contradicting religious accounts. I would go further: if I accept Fred's account of seeing (or hearing, or feeling, or knowing, or whatever) God, why should I not also accept Frank's account of seeing aliens, or of his being Napoleon, or of the world ending if I vote Democratic? Where do you draw the line with credulity?

    Absolutely, but the problem of credulity is, like you say, a separate issue. It is not insurmountable, nor does negate the fact that we must consider the experiences. At the same time, consider that your paragraphs could very easily be used against the “soft” sciences, which are science nonetheless. When is it rational to believe in one scientific theory over another? When 100% of scientists believe it? When 50.1% of scientists believe it? How is “rational” scientific credulity established in these cases?

    I'm glad that you agree that credulity is a problem. But why must we consider all experiences? Life is short, and after something has not been shown to exist a hundred times (say, Uri Geller's paranormal powers), then I'm inclined to declare provisional unbelief and move on. Such is also the case with crop circles and mystics who see angels: no independent confirmation, lots of frauds, and at some point, I have to get on with my life.

    About the soft sciences: I presume you mean things like psychology and not astrology. In the first place, the soft sciences, despite a great deal of soft theorizing and questionable data, do not usually make claims that are per se extraordinary. It would not require a massive rethinking of how the Universe works to believe, say, that boys grow up wanting to marry their mothers and kill their fathers (for instance). Believing in a God is in a rather different category.

    In the second place, even the soft sciences are being cleaned up, slowly but surely, largely by advances in harder sciences: psychology by neuroscience, for instance. Religion, by contrast, is still soft and squishy through and through.

    I don't think anyone here disputes the fact that some people truly feel that they have experienced God in some way. The question is, what does that mean? Does that prove that there must be a Supreme Being who is giving people these experiences, or does it just mean that perhaps we humans are prone to such experiences, which only take place in our own heads?

    Obviously, this is quite possible (if not likely) and a naturalistic example is the most coherent, but if a natural explanation is unsatisfactory or weak, we cannot automatically rule out other explanations. Thus, these experiences must be looked at with a critical eye, not just with one that automatically assumes a naturalist explanation.

    Agreed. I, like many if not most other atheists, would be perfectly willing to entertain supernatural explanations for phenomena, if natural explanations don't work, and there is evidence for supernatural forces at work.

    However, I am also willing to simply say (as I must very often, of course) "I don't know". The track record of materialistic explanations for phenomena is phenomenal, and that of supernatural explanations is, well, less than super: in fact, I don't know of a single example of a phenomenon that has been successfully explained by religion and not by science. By "successful", I don't mean something like "Goddidit and that's why it is the way it is", but an explanation that predicts better than science what will happen, for instance. Do you know of any such explanations?

    I hope Dave doesn't mind if I field something you just wrote to him (he fielded one of mine, so now we're even):

    Unless the mystical experience leads to God (or some type of ‘supernatural’ agent) appearing or speaking to the mystic, at which point, from an empirical perspective, the mystic has sensory confirmation that God exists. If the mystic claimed that such an experience (God presenting Himself to the senses) was replicable through his methods, then that would add weight to the claim that a mystic experience is both replicable and can show that God exists.

    If no one else sees this God and there is no other independent confirmation of his existence, then all this shows is that the mystic's methods can lead to visions. This is exactly the same as my analogy about pressing on your eye: that gives me "sensory confirmation" that I can move the whole world with my finger. That such an experience is replicable (try it yourself!) does not add much weight to the claim that people can move the whole world with their fingers. Why should we take the mystic's claims any more seriously?

    cheers from frosty Vienna, zilch

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  87. Boo Hoo Zilch, I rember your first couple of posts and they were as retarded as your latest.

    And RD Miska, you really need to come up with something a whole lot better than this silly drivel if you want to be taken seriously as an apologist. I'm guessing from your writing style you're about 15.

    Modus, you are just an idiot, why don't you go run off and get stoned or something.

    This blog honestly has deteriorated into a complete lame fest, it used to be way more hard hitting and aggressive, now it's just weak.

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  88. Thanks, I'm fine, Frank- how are you? Long time no hear. I see that you haven't changed your style.

    Seriously, Frank: you are not stupid, and you've got guts. Think about it: what do you accomplish by calling people names? Relax, get that chip off your shoulder.

    You have a very happy New Year too, Frank, and let me know if you're ever in Vienna, or the SF Bay Area most summers, and you're on for lunch: I'm paying.

    cheers from frosty Austria, zilch

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  89. Good Afternoon Dave,

    Sorry for taking so long with this reply, but here it is:

    “Oh, good. Thanks for admitting to doing nothing more than attacking a well-worn strawman. After all, if you're going to "logically" conclude that empiricists must be solipsists, you would need to ensure that your logic is both valid and sound. It isn't.”

    Alright, here is my logic. If an empiricist does not accept, on trust, the testimony of others, he must logically devolve into a solipsist for the following reasons. The empiricist states that knowledge only comes from sensory experience. However, if the empiricist is unwilling to trust the testimony of others in order to determine if sensory experiences share commonality, then the empiricist will be left with his own senses. However, if the empiricist does not start with a premise based on faith, such as “my senses are reliable”, then the empiricism must turn to a solipsist, because if he cannot even rely on his own senses to provide proper knowledge, he can rely on nothing. Thus, the empiricist must start with at least the “faith” based premise “my senses are reliable” and must also—in order to practice science—agree to a further “faith” based premise that says “the sense experience of others can be trusted”.


    ”To start with, would you agree that "I exist" is not a statement of faith?”

    If you mean, “I exist physically”, then I do not agree, because this is a statement of faith. Why? Because we determine that we exist physically through our senses, but if I do not start with the faith based assertion that “my senses are reliable”, then how can I reliably know that I exist? If you mean, “I exist in my thoughts”, then that is fine but provides nothing, because to determine if anything else exists, I must use my senses, which leads back to the question “are my senses reliable?”, which can only be answered on faith.

    If you know of anyway to confirm the absolute reliability of our senses without using circular logic, I would love to hear it.


    ”The only theistic worldviews that I'm aware of which depend upon a single benevolent creator god are the Abrahamaic religions, and in them God created Satan, and so indeed He intended for His creations to be purposefully deceived. In those religions, God created evil, He created lies and He created Satan knowing full well what Satan would be doing (Satan never had free will).”

    I am going to leave this comment alone because it would require a whole different comment section, but I think we are both agree that your assertions here have been tackled and dealt with by various theologians and others. Perhaps not to your personal satisfaction, but they have all been addressed and rebutted.

    ”If it were true that science proceeds based upon philosophical empiricism, you would have a point. But it does not, so you do not.”

    Dave, what is science based on (and I am not being an ass, but am asking honestly)? Science, as it relies on the senses, must start with a faith based premise (my senses are reliable) that it cannot scientifically prove to be absolutely true.


    "OK, please rationally and objectively define a “huge herd”. Does that mean five other scientists? Fifty? Five hundred? What is your rational and empirical basis for “huge herd”? What if one scientist disagrees? Your stance, which seems to be rational, is actually based on a great deal of subjectivity and emotion. I mean…”huge herd”…really…that is the way you rationally determine things? --
    Oh, good grief. Way to miss the point.”

    Dave, my apologies, as I did get carried away a little. But this is a serious question: when is it rational to accept a scientific theory? Is it rational to accept if one or ten or fifty percent of scientists disagree? How much evidence is rationally enough? I ask you, what rational criteria do you use to determine whether or not to believe in a particular scientific theory?


    ”Actually, I wouldn't care. Described that way, the "core facets" are trivialities which aren't important, like the precise amount of money printed by the BEP every day. Jesus is important because if He exists and I don't have faith, then I'm doomed to eternal punishment (so much for omni-benevolence, but that's another discussion). But "a presence that is all-powerful, merciful, caring, whatever," who cares? Does this information mean anything to me? Can I say that because there is "a presence that is all-powerful, merciful, caring, whatever" that I should live my life in a particular way, or avoid certain activities? No.”

    Dave, the strange thing is you answer your own questions with your following statement:

    “Every scientific conclusion leads naturally to more possible research questions.”

    So, if you find that the “core facts” convince you that “a presence” exists, then this is the first step in the equation and can lead to further investigation. For example, if you are not convinced that “a presence”—God—exists, then you would immediately reject the claim that Jesus was God in the flesh. If, however, you are already convinced that a presence exists, but you do not know the specifics, then you would have to admit that the claim that Jesus was God in the flesh was at least a possibility, rather then immediately rejecting it. So that first step is essential in leading to further steps.


    “That there is "a presence that is all-powerful, merciful, caring, whatever" leads naturally nowhere, and in fact invalidates our ability to do science.”

    Please explain how it invalidates our ability to do science, considering that the greatest scientists in history (and many modern day scientists) believe in such a presence and that did not stop their science.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  90. Happy New Year Zilch,

    Reference your comments:

    ”While it's true that we can't rewind the tape of evolution and see dinosaurs chasing mammals around with our own living eyes, smaller bits of evolution are replicable and observable. And evolution has left a number of many kinds of traces, which are admittedly not complete, but taken together provide us with a very good picture. The same is true of other historical sciences, such as plate tectonics and cosmology.”

    This is very true, but the problem I have is that in many instances (but obviously not always), many atheists demand clear and unequivocally evidence of God (as in Him writing I AM GOD in 50 languages on the surface of the Moon, or something similar) and yet willing accept the non-replicable and non-observable historical sciences. Although this is an understandable position from a certain perspective, it is often an unjustified double-standard that is applied.


    “But strictly speaking, all science and indeed all experience is "historical" as soon as it is in the past: can you replicate and observe your own yesterday?”

    This is true, and it is indeed an interesting problem, especially when the often used line “correlation does not equal causation” is used. If correlation does not equal causation, how can we be sure that the scientific theories of yesterday will apply today?


    ”I'm glad that you agree that credulity is a problem.”

    Absolutely, but credulity is a problem, to a degree, in every human enterprise.


    “But why must we consider all experiences? Life is short, and after something has not been shown to exist a hundred times (say, Uri Geller's paranormal powers), then I'm inclined to declare provisional unbelief and move on. Such is also the case with crop circles and mystics who see angels: no independent confirmation, lots of frauds, and at some point, I have to get on with my life.”

    This is true, but certain experiences have no direct effect on me. For example, considering whether or not a God that will punish me eternally for disobedience to His commands is a much more serious consideration, from a personal perspective, than the existence of aliens, Uri Geller’s paranormal powers or Angels. Thus, it is one consideration, from a purely selfish perspective, that I consider vital to consider.


    ”About the soft sciences: I presume you mean things like psychology and not astrology. In the first place, the soft sciences, despite a great deal of soft theorizing and questionable data, do not usually make claims that are per se extraordinary. It would not require a massive rethinking of how the Universe works to believe, say, that boys grow up wanting to marry their mothers and kill their fathers (for instance). Believing in a God is in a rather different category.”

    But this is not necessarily the case. Believing in a deistic God, for example, does not require a massive rethinking of how the universe works. Once we speak of religions, then you are correct, but simply of God, that is not necessarily the case.


    ”In the second place, even the soft sciences are being cleaned up, slowly but surely, largely by advances in harder sciences: psychology by neuroscience, for instance.”

    Which, in turn, overturn old theories, supersede other ones or raise more questions than they answer and this, subsequently, leads to more questions; so are they actually being cleaned up or are just more uncertainties being created?


    ”However, I am also willing to simply say (as I must very often, of course) "I don't know". The track record of materialistic explanations for phenomena is phenomenal, and that of supernatural explanations is, well, less than super: in fact, I don't know of a single example of a phenomenon that has been successfully explained by religion and not by science. By "successful", I don't mean something like "Goddidit and that's why it is the way it is", but an explanation that predicts better than science what will happen, for instance. Do you know of any such explanations?”

    I do. In my opinion (and obviously just my opinion), the first point is “why is there something rather than nothing” or, to phrase it differently, “why does matter exist at all”. Alone, the natural explanation of “matter just appeared” is certainly not satisfactory, but is simpler than God. However, when this idea is combined with the rationality inherent in the laws of nature, in addition to the question of how life (complex information code like DNA) arises from non-life, then I find the explanation of the existence of an Infinite Intelligence to be much more persuasive than any current naturalistic explanation. If something changes in the future concerning the combination of these areas, then I will review my position. Until then…


    “I will agree that all of what you say might be testable, but all you could show is that the belief of being touched by God is (conceivably) replicable and falsifiable; and from within the belief system of the mystic, it is also logical. But what is shown by success here? Not that God exists, unless by "God" you simply mean "conviction of God's existence". And no one doubts that "conviction of God's existence" exists.
    If no one else sees this God and there is no other independent confirmation of his existence, then all this shows is that the mystic's methods can lead to visions. This is exactly the same as my analogy about pressing on your eye: that gives me "sensory confirmation" that I can move the whole world with my finger. That such an experience is replicable (try it yourself!) does not add much weight to the claim that people can move the whole world with their fingers. Why should we take the mystic's claims any more seriously?”

    Let me try to explain with an analogy (although I am apparently bad at that, so this is a fair warning). I have just been horribly beaten up and a man comes to me and tells me that he can train me to defend myself, but at the same time, tells me that because he does not want to give away his secrets, he will not show me any techniques until I commit to the training. I ask him what gives him the qualifications to train me. He tells me that he has just retired from being a secret agent (bear with me) for the government and has risked his life many times. Now, I will never be able to confirm this claim and no one else could confirm it for me. Thus, there is no external evidence or outside confirmation for his claim. However, if this man was a secret agent who risked his life on a daily basis, then I there are features that he should possess. He should, for example, be extremely calm under pressure, have great devotion to his country, follow a rigid code of conduct, not care if I believe him or not, etc. Thus, if I can observe such external features in the man, then I could rationally judge his credibility to be high. In addition, we make such decisions based on people’s claims every day.

    Now, by the same token, if a mystic tells us that he has ‘spoken’ or ‘seen’ God, then we should expect certain external features to be present in this mystic. He should, for example, not fear death, be highly serene and calm due to his knowledge of a ‘greater’ plan, not care about what people think of his claim (because he has seen God, so the opinion of other people are rather inconsequential), stringently follow God’s commands without complaint or concern, not be concerned with material things, etc. So, if we can see these external features in the mystic, we can consider his credibility to be high. And if we have many mystics, who have all followed the same regime and also have the same external features, then the credibility is increased even further.

    So, my concern is that even though we make many decisions based on the ‘secret agent’ type situation in daily life, we seem to immediately apply an unwarranted double-standard when it comes to the claims of a mystic. Is their a justifiable reason for this?

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  91. Ilíon -

    "Another way to understand this is that these true but unprovable statements are contained withing some superset of the particular formal system; that is, within a different formal axiomatic system which also contains the entirety of the first formal system.

    Yes, and then that system will contain new statements that are true but unprovable - that's the meaning of incompleteness; if the system is consistent, then it will always be incomplete. I don't see what you're getting at.

    "But hey! I quite understand why you need to disparage 'proof.'"

    I have no such need at all, but I have also no need for formal proofs in physics, which is what I was explaining to Jeff.

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  92. Frank Walton "Modus, you are just an idiot, why don't you go run off and get stoned or something."
    Truly, sir, even after much time apart, your pen doth cut me with its wit!

    And Walton did ask himself 'WWJD?',
    And the Lord appeared before him and He did say, 'I would be an asshole.'
    And so it came to pass that Walton did become much of an asshole,
    And he did travel from town to town, spreading the brown around.
    And the Lord looked down on Frank and his mastery of the Hole of Holes,
    And He blessed Walton for doing what He would do if the opportunity to do so had ever arisen.

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  93. "Yes, and then that system will contain new statements that are true but unprovable - "

    Aarghh! I used the wrong word again, "contain," but you know what I mean ffs! No matter how you enlarge the system there will always be new Gödel sentences.

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  94. And Walton did ask himself 'WWJD?',
    And the Lord appeared before him and He did say, 'I would be an asshole.'
    And so it came to pass that Walton did become much of an asshole,
    And he did travel from town to town, spreading the brown around.
    And the Lord looked down on Frank and his mastery of the Hole of Holes,
    And He blessed Walton for doing what He would do if the opportunity to do so had ever arisen.


    That sir was art, pure art.

    doosh

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  95. RD Miksa wrote:
    "I respect you as a very competent individual, but you will have to excuse me if I take the authority of a dictionary reference a definition over your own."

    You should really discuss that problem with some dictionary writers. They'll tell you that they don't have the space or mandate to include a lot of the more subtle meanings of words. Otherwise, as I said, nobody would need textbooks (or encyclopedias).

    "Here you are (Please look at #4,5,6 which all show that “empiricism” can be defined as a theory):

    the⋅o⋅ry
       /ˈθi ə ri, ˈθɪər i/ Show Spelled Pronunciation Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun, plural -ries.

    1. a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity.
    2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
    3. Mathematics. a body of principles, theorems, or the like, belonging to one subject: number theory.
    4. the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice: music theory.
    5. a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles.
    6. contemplation or speculation.
    7. guess or conjecture.

    I have no problem with you calling me incompetent as long as you are not so yourself, so please, read ALL the ways a word can be defined before telling me (or the Oxford dictionary) that the term 'theory' does not describe 'empiricism'.
    "

    But #4 and #5 do not describe the philosophical empiricism that you've been talking about, and #6 contradicts #1 and #2, so why should I have chosen it instead of the others (especially when you're talking about requests for evidence, and not speculation). When figuring out the meanings of words, the context is vital. You're talking about empiricism with regard to modern, scientific studies and requests for evidence. Obviously, definitions 4, 5 and 6 should be ignored within such a context when the word "theory" pops into the discussion.

    "Well, to be honest I do not really care, but I just wished to point out that I was not “dead wrong” as you baselessly and wrongly asserted. I will accept your apology if you give it, but do not worry, I will not hold my breath."

    You haven't demonstrated that you're correct, in context. You accused me of being emotional and irrational, and making a baseless accusation. I did none of those things, but I don't expect an apology from you because we were just talking. If you're going to make this personal, so be it.

    "Dave, I must admit, I am very confused. When I used the common definition and understanding of atheist, you told me that I was not nuanced enough and that I did not have a “full” understanding of the meaning and further study was needed on my part. Now, I try to be precise and follow clear definitions to the letter, and you are telling me that I am not common enough in my understanding. Please let me know what subjects you have personally determined should be viewed through a common lens and which ones need to seen in their nuanced form, because until I know your personal selections, I am either too much of one or the other for you."

    You knew that I wasn't referring to tribesmen when I requested that you name a working astronomer who denies the existence of Neptune. You chose to ignore the common definition in favor of one with which you could score rhetorical points.

    You also know that atheists have many subtle and nuanced positions, yet you pick the most hard-line definition out of pure pedantry.

    "That is because many atheists have such a wide variety of definitions, you can get two or three different definitions from two or three different atheists—hence the dictionary."

    Pity that the real world doesn't fit into a simple dictionary definition, isn't it? Thanks for proving my point about arguing from those definitions.

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  96. Happy New Year to All. Thank you for the interesting discussion and comments. Speak to you again in 2009.

    RD Miksa

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  97. RD Miksa wrote:
    "Alright, here is my logic. If an empiricist does not accept, on trust, the testimony of others, he must logically devolve into a solipsist for the following reasons. The empiricist states that knowledge only comes from sensory experience."

    There are no philosophical empiricists any more.

    "Thus, the empiricist must start with at least the “faith” based premise “my senses are reliable” and must also—in order to practice science—agree to a further “faith” based premise that says “the sense experience of others can be trusted”."

    This ignores our ability to escape solipsism without faith, and the fact that there are no philosophical empiricists any longer. Objective reality can be reached without faith.

    Besides, if you're going to equivocate on the word "faith," then you're doing a disservice to people with religious faith. Even if I can't convince you that the idea that my mailbox will be in the same place tomorrow as it was today isn't "faith," putting that belief on the same level as a person's faith that Jesus died for their sins should be highly insulting to any practicing Christians around here.

    "If you mean, “I exist in my thoughts”, then that is fine but provides nothing, because to determine if anything else exists, I must use my senses, which leads back to the question “are my senses reliable?”, which can only be answered on faith."

    No, you're skipping ahead, and so failing to leave solipsism behind.

    If you're willing to accept "I exist" as a consciousness, then what's the next step? Do you think that I can reason?

    "If you know of anyway to confirm the absolute reliability of our senses without using circular logic, I would love to hear it."

    Patience, grasshopper.

    "I am going to leave this comment alone because it would require a whole different comment section, but I think we are both agree that your assertions here have been tackled and dealt with by various theologians and others. Perhaps not to your personal satisfaction, but they have all been addressed and rebutted."

    I am unaware of anyone who can rebut that the creator of everything did not create evil, and Satan, too. I am aware that many people claim to have a solution to the problem of evil, but those claims seem to always rely upon circular, abiblical or otherwise fallacious arguments.

    "Dave, what is science based on (and I am not being an ass, but am asking honestly)? Science, as it relies on the senses, must start with a faith based premise (my senses are reliable) that it cannot scientifically prove to be absolutely true."

    Science begins with no such premise at all. Science begins with the idea that there in an objective reality, one which can be measured. The "senses" bit is at a much deeper philosophical level, and religion relies upon it just as much as science does. (But again: to call "faith" in one's senses the equal of "faith" in God is to insult the religiously faithful.)

    "Dave, my apologies, as I did get carried away a little. But this is a serious question: when is it rational to accept a scientific theory? Is it rational to accept if one or ten or fifty percent of scientists disagree? How much evidence is rationally enough? I ask you, what rational criteria do you use to determine whether or not to believe in a particular scientific theory?"

    The rational criteria are replicability, falsifiability and logical predictive power. There are no absolute "levels" set for each of these criteria, because they will vary according to the situation. Some things are falsifiable only in principle (because we don't have time machines). Some things don't predict very much. Some things are so common-sensical that only a little replication of results will suffice. Etc.

    "So, if you find that the “core facts” convince you that “a presence” exists, then this is the first step in the equation and can lead to further investigation."

    No, if "a presence" exists, it predicts nothing at all. The existence of a being doesn't predict anything about that being's desires or actions, and tells me nothing about how I could learn those things. It is a scientific dead-end.

    Jesus being God in the flesh doesn't follow logicially from "a god exists." "A god exists" has no predictive power whatsoever, and if it's true, then it isn't falsifiable in principle (because a god could change the results of experiments however it wanted to).

    "Please explain how it invalidates our ability to do science..."

    I believe I just did. Science relies upon reality not changing at the whim of an all-powerful being. As soon as such a being is posited, then experiments conducted last Thursday must be replicated next Friday to see if the results are still true (to ensure that one or more gods haven't changed the universe in-between tests). Science would be unable to progress, due to all the re-re-re-re-verification which would necessarily occur (to suggest that a god wouldn't tinker like that requires faith, and so wouldn't be a scientific premise).

    "...considering that the greatest scientists in history (and many modern day scientists) believe in such a presence and that did not stop their science."

    They have faith that their god(s) is (are) not capricious regarding the "laws" that it (they) have laid out. I don't have any such luxury, even if I agree that a deity exists.

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  98. Frank Walton "doosh"
    Touche.

    ...And the circle is complete. Good luck, Godspeed, and good bye.

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  99. And a Happy New Year to you too, RDM. You say (I'll mostly leave my original comments out for brevity; it's obvious from context what you are replying to here):

    [...]the problem I have is that in many instances (but obviously not always), many atheists demand clear and unequivocally evidence of God (as in Him writing I AM GOD in 50 languages on the surface of the Moon, or something similar) and yet willing accept the non-replicable and non-observable historical sciences. Although this is an understandable position from a certain perspective, it is often an unjustified double-standard that is applied.

    Show me some evidence for the existence of God that explains or predicts anything that science does not, and then we can talk about the possibility of God's existence. So far I've seen zilch. And you're right: this is an "understandable position from a certain perspective"- the "certain perspective" here being common sense and skepticism.

    And about "double standards"- here, as elsewhere where you talk about skepticism necessitating a retreat to solipsism, you are assuming a kind of dualism which you have not shown to be justified: either one accepts everything as evidence, or one accepts nothing. Not only is this not the way scientists work, it is also not the way anyone works- or are you the proud owner of the Brooklyn Bridge? We both have standards, but my standards are more exacting than yours.

    [...] certain experiences have no direct effect on me. For example, considering whether or not a God that will punish me eternally for disobedience to His commands is a much more serious consideration, from a personal perspective, than the existence of aliens, Uri Geller’s paranormal powers or Angels. Thus, it is one consideration, from a purely selfish perspective, that I consider vital to consider.

    Thank you, this corroborates a point that you denied a couple of posts ago: namely, that what I call the "carrot and stick" of Heaven and Hell, plays a role in your decision about what to believe. But there's no evidence that such places exist; and their invention is an obvious move to have evolved in the ideosphere: since we know we're going to die, and don't want to die (William Hazlitt said it nicely: "The long habit of life indisposeth to death") the field is open for the invention of an afterlife as a kind of divine hook to gain converts and encourage obedience.

    Of course, this trick has evolved over and over, or been borrowed and recycled, by many religions throughout history. It's a "smart move", as Dennett calls it, like the evolution of secular systems of reward and punishment to help build societies. But as M.O. said elsewhere, aren't you worried about ending up in Jahannam, the Muslim hell? You should be- there's just as much evidence and conviction for its existence as for the Christian Hell.

    Believing in a deistic God, for example, does not require a massive rethinking of how the universe works. Once we speak of religions, then you are correct, but simply of God, that is not necessarily the case.

    If positing the existence of a Supreme Intelligence who created the Universe, or even just the laws of the Universe, doesn't require a massive rethinking for you, in comparison to a Universe without such a primordial, unevolved, unexplained, complex being, then all I can say is that you are a lot easier to please than I am. I would like to know how it can be that something that complex can come from nothing, or simply have existed always, when all our experience shows that complexity is either the result of slow evolution (life) or design by products of evolution (computers, say). I said:

    In the second place, even the soft sciences are being cleaned up, slowly but surely, largely by advances in harder sciences: psychology by neuroscience, for instance.

    You replied:

    Which, in turn, overturn old theories, supersede other ones or raise more questions than they answer and this, subsequently, leads to more questions; so are they actually being cleaned up or are just more uncertainties being created?

    That's how science works, and one reason it's so wonderful: like a child growing up, the more we understand about the world, the more questions we can reasonably ask- and there is no end to the questions, because there is more to be known than we can ever possible know or even imagine. So, sure, more uncertainties are created when we know more, but old uncertainties are cleaned up, and we understand more and are able to predict better. This reminds me of the common fundamentalist complaint about the discovery of transitional fossils that fill a gap in the record: "But now there are two new gaps!"

    Alone, the natural explanation of “matter just appeared” is certainly not satisfactory, but is simpler than God.

    It is indeed simpler, and that's why I believe it (provisionally, of course).

    However, when this idea is combined with the rationality inherent in the laws of nature, in addition to the question of how life (complex information code like DNA) arises from non-life, then I find the explanation of the existence of an Infinite Intelligence to be much more persuasive than any current naturalistic explanation.

    You and billions of other people. The Argument From Design is indeed compelling- in my opinion, the best argument for the existence of God. Explaining the order in the Universe that makes life possible is indeed a pickle, and may never be solved. But the trouble with the AFD, as I am not the first to point out, is that it doesn't really explain anything at all, but merely shifts the problem onto an unexplained supreme being. All those questions about the Universe that we would like to have answered- about its origin, its order, life, consciousness- can just as well be asked about God, and answers are not forthcoming, unless you count "Goddidit" or "God was here forever" or "God found it good, so there" as answers. God functions here as a giant Persian carpet that such questions are merely swept under.

    Since the God hypothesis doesn't do any explanatory work, and moreover introduces a whole new level of complexity and a whole new realm of reality (the supernatural), I'll just continue saying "I don't know" rather than say "Goddidit".

    Now, by the same token, if a mystic tells us that he has ‘spoken’ or ‘seen’ God, then we should expect certain external features to be present in this mystic. He should, for example, not fear death, be highly serene and calm due to his knowledge of a ‘greater’ plan, not care about what people think of his claim (because he has seen God, so the opinion of other people are rather inconsequential), stringently follow God’s commands without complaint or concern, not be concerned with material things, etc. So, if we can see these external features in the mystic, we can consider his credibility to be high. And if we have many mystics, who have all followed the same regime and also have the same external features, then the credibility is increased even further.

    Have you spent any amount of time in a psycho ward, or with drug addicts? I have, and I can tell you that there are lots of ways to achieve calm and conviction. True, more disciplined regimens like those of religion are more likely to last longer, but all that shows is the value of having a philosophy one can live by: it does nothing to demonstrate that the beliefs of that philosophy are true. Another analogy: it is obviously valuable for very young children to believe in their parents absolutely, or they are likely to get run over before they are three. That doesn't prove that their parents are absolutely right about everything they say to their kids.

    cheers from frosty Vienna, zilch

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  100. Hey RD, a blind guy shouldn't believe in black guys either. Dude stick to Biblical fundamentals or you'll lose every time.

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  101. Has anyone else bothered to do a search on Google for astronomy blind? You quickly come across things such as this:

    ...there is a basic misconception about astronomy: Many people believe that it is a visual science. They think of an astronomer as someone who looks through a telescope, and takes notes on what he or she observes in the sky. This may have been the way Galileo conducted his observations almost 400 years ago, but modern astronomy is very different. Digital cameras are vastly superior to our eyes (and even photographic film) and have long since replaced them as detectors of the light collected by telescopes. They are more sensitive than our eyes, allow us to precisely measure subtle differences in brightness, position and shape, and permit the long exposures necessary to detect objects that are many billion times fainter than what our eyes can see. Once digital cameras have recorded the light from astronomical objects electronically, it is transferred to a computer and processed using specialized software. Astronomers use their eyes to read numbers, words, and sometimes graphs on the computer screen, but never as scientific instrument to make measurements. There is nothing a blind person could not do as well.

    While a modern sighted astronomer may have an additional optical-telescope reason to suspect Neptune is out there, above and beyond the data collected by their instruments, the most persuasive data is mechanically recorded and can be (and regularly is) translated into non-visual forms.

    The nice thing about empirical evidence is that it can be mechanically observed and recorded, and those recordings can be reliably translated into other media. Humans can't hear in ultrasonic frequencies, but it's still empirical data. Humans can't see in radio frequencies, but still use it for observations. Human ears can't discern everything going on in birdsong, but human eyes can. And that all is relatively old technology. There's more neurologically interesting options on the horizon.

    Another feature of empirical data is that if you've got a mechanism for recording it, the effectiveness and reliability of that mechanism can be verified by other people regardless of whether they believe in what it may or may not measure. You might think that things falling are accelerating downward, and I might think all objects always fall at a constant rate, but we can agree that a spark tape setup would reveal the truth of the matter. We could both check that the spark is firing at regular intervals. We could both check that the spark marks the tap where it should, rather than in random unrelated locations. We could both perform the same experiment and come to the same conclusions. Even if you were blind and I was deaf.

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  102. Don't get too excited, zilch. It's the fake Frank Walton. http://atheismsucks.blogspot.com/2006/10/imposter-alert.html

    Thanks, M. Atheos, for saying what needed to be said 100 comments ago: Blind people don't need to trust the sighted to be convinced of Neptune's existence. I don't understand why so many commenters conceded that point.

    Another important point is that blind people do know that they are blind. A sighted person can easily demonstrate through controlled experiments that they have the ability to reliably perceive things in a way that the blind person cannot. I'm sure everyone is creative enough to devise such experiments without me having to spell it out for them. And if you ever encounter a real-life sight-skeptic, please let me know. Convincing them would be fun.

    Also, we don't HAVE to trust anybody. A life without trust is not absurd, it's just very limited. In fact, I could live on the planet with no other people and survive. The question is: What and whom should I trust if I want to achieve my goals?

    One of my goals is to learn as much as I can about the world without taking on false beliefs. So I find it useful to trust some of what I hear and reject other things. I'm constantly refining this process.

    So, RD, if you think you've got a convincing anecdote that provides evidence for God's existence, it would make this discussion much more concrete if you just told us the story so we could all tell you if we believe it or not and why.

    And I also assume that people have told you stories of God intervening or something supernatural occurring and you didn't believe them. So can you explain the basis upon which you accept some of these supernatural stories and reject others?

    The best way that I've found to sort things out is to check whether I could at least in theory empirically validate a claim. If I could, and the person has something to lose if I called their bluff, I'm much more likely to believe it.

    Can you make a similar statement to the one I made above that I would likely disagree with, but would explain your rationale for believing in some secondhand supernatural experiences?

    Thanks. I'm really impressed with your stamina, RD. Take care.

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  103. kuhlmann wrote:
    "Thanks, M. Atheos, for saying what needed to be said 100 comments ago: Blind people don't need to trust the sighted to be convinced of Neptune's existence. I don't understand why so many commenters conceded that point."

    Did anyone concede it?

    Besides, M. Atheos simply shifts the solipsism to a different level. The data, however they are recorded, need to be integrated into one's brain before one can agree or disagree that the data reflect some real phenomenon.

    But RD Miksa contends that because a person's senses aren't reliable, agreeing to the validity of any external data at all is an unwarranted, unscientific leap of faith. He insists that there is no way to verify that the data that one examines inside one's own head is the same data that was recorded by any machine, or even directly input to the brain through eyes, ears, nose, mouth or skin. And if the data are suspect, then any conclusion one might draw from the data would be suspect, as well. He said himself that empirical verification of the existence of Neptune is impossible for human beings (using his definition of "empirical").

    You and M. Atheos both argue from a non-solipsistic perspective, which is fine with me except that it fails to engage with RD Miksa's point by skipping right over it.

    Three days ago, RD Miksa expressed interest in how a person can, without resorting to faith or circular arguments, feel justified in saying that one's senses are reliable (the adjective "absolutely" was his, not mine). But he seems to have buggered off after accepting only the very first step.

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  104. kuhlmann- thanks a lot for bursting my bubble. Here I was, all happy and everything to be engaging (so to speak) with Frank again, and you go and rain on my parade. But since I'm a True Believer™, I'm empowered to simply deny that this is not the True Frank. Moreover, I will deny that it makes any difference whether or not this is the True Frank: it's the thought that counts, no?

    Dave: exactly. RDM seems to have no setting between solipsism and believing whatever anyone tells him. That's fine with me, but I wouldn't want to live that way.

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  105. zilch wrote:
    "Dave: exactly. RDM seems to have no setting between solipsism and believing whatever anyone tells him. That's fine with me, but I wouldn't want to live that way."

    It's the only way for him (and those like him) to justify their faith: pretend that every other conclusion any person might come to is equally as irrational, thus allowing them to say "my faith makes just as much sense as a scientific theory."

    Of course, it backfires because it makes every belief, no matter how trivial (or even wrong), the equal of faith in God. It should be insulting to the faithful, but instead they seem to glom onto it as profoundly insightful.

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  106. Good Evening Dave and All,

    Sorry for "buggering off", but post-Christmas things to do and all that. I will be replying shortly and if desired by you and others, we can keep the discussion going.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

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  107. Turns out that my priorities have rather suddenly changed, and I'll be unable to devote anywhere near as much time to my SIWOTI syndrome as I used to. Perhaps one of the other fine commenters here can pick up my unintended slack.

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  108. Hey, Dave, I'll miss your input. Do drop me a line if you're ever in Vienna, or the SF Bay Area in the summer.

    cheers from frosty Vienna, zilch

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  109. Adonais -- later almost seeing the point: "Aarghh! I used the wrong word again, "contain," but you know what I mean ffs! No matter how you enlarge the system there will always be new Gödel sentences."

    Do I really know what you mean, considering that you say what you do not mean, or that what you say may reflect an incorrect understanding "incompleteness" (and that perhaps that you're OK with that when it comes down to it)?

    And, if you have no need for formal proof, then how are you not disparaging the entire concept ... and, ultimately, all possibility of possessing real knowledge?

    Formal proofs do not, and cannot, give us all knowledge; but they do give us knowledge we'd not have otherwise. For instance, we learned about "incompleteness" via a formal proof.

    And they *do* enable us to differentiate real knowledge from wishful thinking. For instance, knowledge of "incompleteness" quashed the old fantasy that all knowledge on a subject could be obtained by mechanistically applying/employing the rules of the appropriate formal system (that old fantasy contained the hidden assumption that the axioms and rules of the formal system between them already contained within themselves the entirety of the subject matter).

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  110. "And, if you have no need for formal proof, then how are you not disparaging the entire concept ... and, ultimately, all possibility of possessing real knowledge?"

    How? Because we do not live in a formal system of propositional logic, that is merely an abstraction used to analyze chunks of arguments and properties of natural numbers. Even if you think that the world can be mapped onto such a system, we will not acquire knowledge by merely scribbling formulas on paper; our abstractions need to be informed by empirically interrogating nature.

    You are greatly overselling the notion of proof and Real™ knowledge here. If we're talking propositional calculus, proof is a sufficient condition for truth within a formal system, assuming the validity of its axioms and inference rules. For such a proof to say anything about the natural world, there needs to be an isomorphism between the formal system and nature. But even if you can find such an isomorphism, what Gödel showed was that within the system, if it is sufficiently complex, provability is a sufficient but not a necessary condition for truth. A sufficiently complex system will contain undecidable statements that can be true nevertheless, but not provable within the system. Physicists were doing mathematics for hundreds of years and making wondrous discoveries about nature long before e.g. Euclid's postulates could be incorporated into a formal logic or a consistency proof for the Peano axioms could be constructed. Physicists have been perfectly capable of working with the isomorphisms of mathematics even in the absence of such formal proofs.

    Additionally, you misrepresent my original statement, which was that I have no need for formal proofs in the sciences that deal with physical reality ("physics" in the broader sense). In these disciplines, the body of mathematics is usually taken as axiomatic, regardless of the formal consistency status of its underlying axioms. And as I already mentioned, the way to find out if a given isomorphism with nature is true is not by mathematical proof, but by investigating nature.

    If you recall, I was replying to the question "Can you prove that Neptune exists?" I now forward that question to you: can you prove within propositional calculus that the planet Neptune exists? And if you can't, does that mean that you can't have Real™ knowledge about the existence of the planet Neptune? How about this one: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; Therefore Socrates is mortal. But can you prove either of the premises within the system of formal logic? If you can't, does that mean that you have no Real™ knowledge about the mortality of men or that Socrates was one? If you consider Real™ knowledge to be only what can be formally proved, then you have very little knowledge about the physical world.

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